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WHEN VIEWING ON A MOBILE DEVICE -- DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM 18  chapter 2 do talk to animals. As obvious as this seems, talking to animals illustrates that children assume animals are listening to them, that they understand, and that they will respond to the child’s language in some way. Talking to an animal indicates that a child assumes the pet has a desire to communicate with the child. Consider this simple yet nuanced example: A five-​year-​old boy, while helping to unload groceries from the car, called to the neighbor’s dog, Carter, who appeared to be watching from the yard next door, “We’re just unload- ing the groceries from the car, Cart.” This example illustrates that the boy believed that Carter, a Jack Russell terrier, could understand not only the language the boy was using but also the meaning behind the words. (The boy also assumed that the dog was interested in what he was doing based on the fact that the dog appeared to be watching him.) His tone in speaking to the dog was matter-​of-​fact, the same tone that he would use had it been his sister who was watching. Clearly, the boy has a sense that Carter shares this world with him and is participating in it in much the same way he is—​and was interested in what he was doing. Using the nickname “Cart” instead of the dog’s full name also indicates that the boy sees the dog as a peer or a friend, rather than an object or disinterested party. Children rarely have nicknames for inanimate objects. It shows that the boy feels familiarity with Carter, much as one would feel with a human friend. This example also illustrates that children tend to feel that an animal’s behavior is a response to whatever the child is doing (remember that the early childhood years are a very self-​centered age). As far as the boy was concerned, if Carter the dog was watching him unload the car, surely it was because he was interested in what the boy was doing and why. Dogs are curious animals, so it’s likely that the dog was indeed watching the boy, but it’s possible he wasn’t. In reality, the dog could have been watching a nearby squirrel, birds in the yard, or something else entirely. A sense of it being “all about me” is a natural feeling, especially in early childhood. In fact, when asked, most preschoolers in one study indicated that not only did they believe their pets could think and feel, but also that when those pets were thinking, they were thinking about that child. When an excited boy is paired with an equally excited dog, it can feel to the child as though the dog knows just what the child is feeling and is responding in kind. This genuine back-​and-​forth, this sense the child has that the dog knows what he is feeling and that the dog actually shares that feeling is COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL