When I was in my idealistic twenties I had an argument with a fundamental man who believed that animals were not intelligent. He said that intelligence meant that the animals had to have a sense of themselves. I was angry. I felt like he was trying to belittle animals.
Since then, I have a sense that intelligence is overrated. I no longer give a damn when people try and compare animals to people because the whole concept is laughable.
I follow the work of a Vedic master called Maharishi. He elaborated a similar story to my fundamentalist friend. He said that animals simply mirror human beings. Again, I was aghast at the thought.
I have a new found interest in what Maharishi said. I think they may have been trying to say something to me and perhaps I was not listening clearly. Because it may be true that animals are true essence. And they are uninterested in unconditional concerns. They wish to survive, to experience themselves, but are simply acting in the environment for their own sense of self. If we find our children or peers doing this, we will call them selfish.
This is actually laughable. When I thought of the word unconditional in the past, I aligned it with being a good-hearted martyr that would give of themselves without wanting anything in return. Perhaps the very moment we 'try' to be the good samaritan is the moment we have lost the plot. I cannot imagine an animal going - "mmmm, I must poo in the garden so that that man over there likes me and thinks I am clever." Why would they bother. They simply do what is most reinforcing in that particular moment. Not because they want to be the most popular dog in the school, or the most generous boy in the neigbourhood. They don't have masks that they all good or bad. They simply exist to enjoy a sense of themselves.
Unconditional means - no attachment. Not worrying about what my mask looks like. So, when we judge what an animal is or how it is behaving, we are probably using our own sense of warped perspective describing the animal. Classic case of three fingers pointing back at us.