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WHEN VIEWING ON A MOBILE DEVICE -- DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM 16  chapter 2 whines, barks, purrs, or squawks are messages that children can interpret on their own. Animals don’t wait to let others know how they feel. In many cases, animals’ communication has little to do with a child’s actions, but when it does, that communication is usually immediate and clear. Animals move their bodies in response to the child’s advances: A guinea pig may move away, come closer, hide in a corner, or ignore the child altogether. A parakeet may squawk and flutter around its cage, showing fear or ex- citement or simply reacting to the large hand that suddenly entered her living space. A nervous terrier may growl and snarl if a curious girl comes too close, causing the child to rethink her quick grabs at his ears and alter her behavior to a slow, cautious touch to the dog’s shoulder instead. A skin twitch in response to a child’s poke may be all it takes to engage a child. That child might seek out a cat’s purr by petting her behind the ears, then under the chin, and finally, after the cat nuzzles farther into her hand, on the spot just above her eyes. Animals’ direct messages can also be a welcome contrast to the world of human communication. Young children are constantly at work decipher- ing and interpreting the subtle rules of human communication, which can contain mixed messages, subtle nuances, or “hidden agendas” below the surface. For example, a child’s harried mother may speak sharply and slam the door as she scrambles to pack the children into the car one morning so she can get to work on time. She tells the children she’s not angry, yet her face expresses displeasure. The child must then reconcile conflicting messages wondering, How does she really feel? What does she really think? Animals, on the other hand, leave nothing to guesswork. If a dog doesn’t like something a child is doing, the dog will snarl, snap, growl, or simply walk away. A bird flies away when a child comes too close. A cat may leave the sofa when a too-​noisy child plops down next to her. Hamsters will munch on their food when observed by a still, quiet child, but when disturbed or threatened, they may scurry off to a hiding place in the corner of their cage. These are all direct messages that a child can understand at face value. There is no need for interpretation or teasing apart words, tone of voice, facial expression, and other nonverbal cues to get at the “real” message. This clarity helps children form connections with animals, because their attempts at communication result in clear, unambiguous feedback to which they generally know how to respond. Remember that any response from an animal can be considered a “useful” communication in this regard, because a response in this context means that the animal has received and is responding to the child’s attempts COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL