Of all the Looney Tunes characters, I was never a fan of the Roadrunner. (I liked Wile E. Coyote well enough, and wish him well in his lawsuit against the Acme Company.) However, there was one Roadrunner cartoon where the focus pulls back from the eternal struggle between coyote and prospective dinner and shifts instead to two little cartoon kids watching the Roadrunner on their TV. If I recall correctly, at least one of these kids expresses a less-than-favorable opinion of the Roadrunner. And, one of the kids (might be the same one) mentions that he wants to be a psychoanimalist when he grows up.
It should come as no surprise that the Free-Ride offspring are already running around practicing psychonanimalysis (psychoanimalism?) — without a license.
Younger offspring: We were playing bucking bronco, and I was the horse.
Dr. Free-Ride: Yes?
Younger offspring: And [the grandparent who lurks but seldom comments] couldn’t get on my back, because that would crush me. So he put the cat on my back.
Dr. Free-Ride: I see. What happened next?
Younger offspring: Well, then I bucked and the cat jumped off my back.
Dr. Free-Ride: So, do you think the cat enjoyed this experience?
Younger offspring: Yes! She ran away, but she had fun.
Dr. Free-Ride: So you’ve decided it makes sense in the cat psyche that running away is a sign of having fun?
Younger offspring: She always comes back.
* * * * *
While walking to school one day:
Elder offspring: (whistling) I think this sounds like the song of a sparrow.
Dr. Free-Ride: What kind of sparrow song do you suppose it is? Or are you just saying something in sparrow-speak without having any idea what you’re saying?
Elder offspring: I think it’s a mating call.
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh really? Have you given any thought to what will happen if you’re actually right and a sparrow actually hears that mating call and shows up looking to mate?
Elder offspring: I could tell the sparrow, “Your date is dead.”
Dr. Free-Ride: That would be really sad. You hear a mating call, fly over to meet the bird, then find out the bird you’ve flown to meet is dead?
Elder offspring: Well, I could tell the sparrow, “Your date is shy, and flew away just before you got here. But you’ll find your date soon.”
Dr. Free-Ride: I suppose that’s a little less sad. I wonder whether it’s maladaptive for birds to be shy. What if another sparrow who’s ready to mate zips in before the shy one finds its courage?
Younger offspring: But [Elder offspring] isn’t even a sparrow, so whistling a sparrow mating song is kind of lying to the sparrows who hear it.
Dr. Free-Ride: I’m guessing that sparrows would see it that way.
Elder offspring: Well, we don’t even know if there are sparrows nearby to hear it, or even if I have the tune right.
Dr. Free-Ride: I imagine that bird songs might be very precise to avoid sparrows getting confused by the songs from other birds — or the whistling of human children.
Younger offspring: But if your song really is a sparrow mating song, it could make a sparrow mad that you did it, because you’re not a sparrow.
Elder offspring: OK, maybe I’ll just listen to bird songs and I’ll whistle them inside where birds won’t get confused.
Younger offspring: But not when I’m trying to sleep, or I’ll get confused and think there’s a bird in the house.