I have long loved animals – I was a young man when I founded wildlife rehabilitation center in Miami more than four decades ago – and I have done what I could to help save them from the ravages visited upon them by sharing the planet with humans. But it wasn’t until one day in 2003 that I truly understood that, in the deepest sense, we are truly alike. That day I was in Key Largo, Florida, working with a stranded 15-foot male pilot whale who, despite our best efforts to save him, was dying, along with the 20 or so other whales in his pod. After a few very difficult hours in the water with him, cradling him with my arms, he rolled up and with his one eye looked deeply into mine, and something profound shifted inside of me. It felt as though I was looking at myself in the mirror, like he could see me in the exact same way I saw him. No longer was he an alien species. We were equals. Our form and our cultures were unique unto themselves, but deep inside, we were the same.
You could have knocked me over with a feather, and in that moment I was forever changed. I moved from merely holding him to touching him. I was no longer Jack, a member of the dominant species on the planet, given dominion over all others by God. My ability to form language from abstract symbols did not make me superior to them, though it did separate me from them. Before that moment, my eyes had the bias of my brain, carrying with it all the things I had learned from our species about who we are. But we’re not really that. I found that there is a different way to see this whole place.
We are not alone on Earth, and it is my fervent hope that in the following pages of my book, I will be able to convey this truth to you in a way that will make obvious the depth of our connection with our fellow beings, and awaken a passion in you to work toward making meaningful contact with our non-human neighbors, a community of souls who share many of the same desires, goals and hopes that we hold precious.