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The Furry Others

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Knowing what's going on in the minds of other humans is a leap of faith, but it's a pretty safe leap. Knowing what's going on in the minds of animals, however...that's another story. Reporter Ben Calhoun introduces us to Jerry Stones, a zookeeper who was duped by an orangutan named Fu Manchu. When Fu hid a makeshift key inside his cheek for weeks and weeks, was he knowingly deceiving his human captors? Primatologist Dr. Rob Shumaker, now at the Indianapolis Zoo, believes that the range of opinion on that question says as much about us as it does about the ape.

Then, Lulu Miller wonders what went through her dog Charlie's mind at the pivotal moment of his life.

Comments [34]

Adam Z from SF,CA

I can see a mixed bag of responses to the story but that the great thing about storytelling, each person responds differently. Lulu actually told an amazing story and I randomly caught this segment while walking home. Im a huge dog fan, and missed the very beginning of the story when she mentioned what type of dog it was. As the story continued I became more engrossed, especially when she mentioned the denim dog jacket with Levis buttons(currently work for Levis). As the story progressed and she described her dogs final moments facing a pack of coyotes it struck a cord and I definitely shed a man tear or two because my dog was also killed by coyotes. I was so moved I looked up the picture of Charlie only to find it was a Westy, same dog I had. RIP Charlie. RIP Duffy.

Oct. 12 2016 02:28 AM

I wasn't upset or disturbed by the Charlie story, I just found it unbearably mawkish.

Dogs, as far as we know, do not have complex enough brains to think in concepts such as "wild" or domesticated. That's an entirely human thing. They revert to feral, instinctual behaviors when left alone long enough, and some do it well enough to survive, but they don't sit around thinking about how they used to be wolves and gee wouldn't that be nice. I guess you tell yourself what you have to when coping with a loss, but no, being lured away by coyotes probably did not make poor Charlie excited about being "wild for a moment."

Coyotes and wolves are two different species. The coyotes have no reason to recognize kinship with or "nod in respect" to a little dog that looks nothing like them. They didn't see one of them, they saw meat.

I mean, it's awful what happened, but I don't see how tacking on this saccharine anthropomorphism at the end is supposed to make it any better.

Oct. 11 2016 12:59 PM
Cheryl from Tucson AZ

Coyotes are known to kill instantly by grabbing the back of the neck or biting the jugular. Charlie probably never knew what happened. The whimpering they heard were probably pups wanting to feed.

Oct. 10 2016 05:48 PM
Elle Cross

I just heard the story of Charlie. My big dog Max just died oh so recently, not from coyotes; he protected us, the yard from coyotes, the bob cat, from all things wild that roam our neighborhood. I am still weepy. I never would have sat listening for sounds, if my dogs went missing, I went out after them. I believe in fences, saving your own without just thinking, "they'll come home." No, you make it happen. Awful story. RIP Charlie.

Oct. 09 2016 08:07 PM
kate from California

This was romantic nonsense. The dog should have been kept inside in view of obvious danger. This is irresponsible care and no amount of sweet rationalization changes that. Please, Listeners, understand that pets are not wild and haven't been for eons.

Oct. 09 2016 06:59 PM
Renaye from Texas

I think this was a very sad story, but it was beautifully told. We all would say yeah I would go save my dog... but in the moment we are never actually sure how we would react. RIP Charlie

Oct. 08 2016 05:29 PM
Autumn Watson from Maui

Oh man, I wish I wouldn't have heard the Charlie story this morning. It left a terrible feeling in my stomach. Poor dog, really should have been left inside when the family left.

Oct. 08 2016 04:52 PM
nancy from carmichael ca

Wow. That was not a happy ending. I wish I hadn't listened to the Charlie story.

Aug. 21 2014 03:25 PM
Robert from Lancaster PA

I knew it must be a Westie from her descriptions... I don't get that they could leave him unattended, after saying earlier that he would tear off after squirrels etc. We were told by a trainer of 40 years not to use an electric fence since it would be useless for a Westie intent on chasing something. So why leave Charlie alone on the deck like that? Felt sick to my stomach thinking about his fate -- wild urge satisfied or not (he would have gotten plenty of satisfaction if they just let him dig after mice now & then) -- and like others have said, one yelp or whimper and I would have been off after the pack with a bat. I wouldn't condone killing the coyotes, but I would have at least tried to save my dog.

Jun. 10 2014 05:16 PM

As a defender of free speech, I can't say that you should not have broadcast the Charlie story. I can say that I am surprised Radiolab was willing to reward the presenter with this gesture of respect. Here is a woman who not only responded to her dog's tragedy with cowardice and denial, she asks us to join in her family's mass delusion that their dog actually enjoyed being eaten alive by a pack of coyotes. RL, was your editor on vacation this week?

Jun. 08 2014 03:04 PM
Jack from Stanford, Calif.

I wish the lady with the dog story that I think she thought was cute and sensitive had been able to see things from a different point of view. Consider: #1, the point of view of the squirrels she let her dog chase. How would you feel if you were chased by, let's say, a tiger, even if the tiger didn't catch you? #2, the dog's point of view: why did you let me go outside unattended when you knew there coyotes around? Can you really be so obtuse that you didn't know that was my death sentence?

Jun. 07 2014 06:17 PM

Shocking that she went to hide in a closet! I would have been running after those coyotes with the strongest stick I could find. (BTW J, we had a coyote/dog mix and a smarter sweeter critter never existed. Coyotes are not bad!

Jun. 07 2014 06:05 PM

Shocking that she went to hide in a closet! I would have been running after those coyotes with the strongest stick I could find. (BTW J, we had a coyote/dog mix and a smarter sweeter critter never existed. Coyotes are not bad!

Jun. 07 2014 04:59 PM
Mike scott from Punta Gorda, Florida

Poor Charlie, he looked like his yrs. had arrived and the coyotes respected that. The circle of life!

Jun. 07 2014 03:55 PM
tim gapinski from westfield in

we usually go out on friday night but we needed to clean up and get ready to go to the lake tomorrow, but having radio lab on made us feel like we were out and about. and jerry stones told the orangtan story as if he was a moth radio veteran! kudos! i can tell already that i will keep this story of animal deception and locksmithing as a permanent conviction and an illustration point to remind and how mystery trumps hard science in the same way literature and life educates us far beyond the hard science of psychology. bravo radiolabmasters!

Jun. 06 2014 11:55 PM

Screw that. They should have went to save him

Id have killed every coyote i could find.

Jun. 06 2014 08:52 PM

I just finished listening to this particular story. I cried a bit, and then had an enormous urge to go outside and hug my dog. The story was beautifully told. Also, for those disappointed with this story, Jad and Robert have never explicitly stated that Radiolab is a show about science. In fact, if you look in the show's description, it actually states the following: "... Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience." This story, especially within the context of a greater episodic-arc that actually relies heavily on science, is an excellent example of their modus operandi. And as for the comment by Rose, I think unsatisfying speculation is what this show is all about! It's why I listen to it. If you notice, every Radiolab episode ends with wildly unsatisfying speculation, as Jad and Robert never discuss the final story. It always just ends rather abruptly, right at the moment that our minds start barking for answers about what we've just heard. It is at this point that my mind is the one that begins to speculate wildly, after about an hour of passive listening. It's really a master stroke of radio production, to be able to have such an invigorating effect on one's mind...

Anyway, Lulu is awesome.

Oct. 30 2013 12:03 AM

I have a westie...and that Charlie story was definitely not necessary in this piece. Straight up ruined my day...thanks Radiolab :(

Sep. 16 2013 01:53 PM
M.E. from Ohio

Thanks very much for the name of the piece too!

Jan. 08 2013 09:51 PM

@M.E. from Ohio

The music is "Bandera" by Willie Nelson. Thank you Shazam! Good guess, btw.

Jan. 07 2013 12:00 PM
M.E. from Ohio

The music just after the story about Charlie was very nice and I was hoping to find out who the artist was. It sounded sort of like Willie Nelson on the guitar, maybe with some harmonica too (?) Can someone who produces the show identify the music? Thanks.

Jan. 06 2013 09:17 PM
tami brown from wash, dc

This story was more about a shared delusion within a family, possibly excluding the father, who loved Charlie so much. The rest of them tried to delude themselves about Charlie being killed in a brutal manner. I hated this story because there was no kernel of truth to it and the writer was self-serving.

Jan. 06 2013 02:30 PM
Tina from North Carolina

The story about animals and deception was great and very interesting. I was reminded of my childhood dog who regularly 'lied' to my mother. The dog was trained to relieve herself outside by positive reinforcement with dog treats. My father and I eventually stopped giving treats for this unless she'd done especially well to hold it. My mother however, often sought the dog's personal approval and would reward her constantly. The dog would often, and only with my mother, beg to go out and mimic peeing or pooping with excreting anything. She then expected and received a treat, to my mother's exasperation, who knew what was going on but couldn't stand to deny the dog. (She died a very fat dog). I fully believe animals in close relationships with humans can 'get in their heads' and even be manipulative, just like the orangutan.

Jan. 06 2013 12:44 AM
Joshua from Chapel Hill

I teared up in the car as I drove to a local brewery. Needed a beer more than I did before hearing the story about Charlie, I'm a dog lover.

Jan. 05 2013 09:26 PM

My passion, my love. yes, its you , Radiolab.
Thank you for these and other intriguing stories. Yes, it may not scream science, but the subtleties whisper a unique way of peeking into animal nature.
btw, jad, your dad is a fun guy.

Jan. 05 2013 08:09 PM
Edna Durango from California

Maybe the science part was about the behavior of the coyotes and their ability to "trick" their prey in devious ways. To me, that's pretty amazing.

Jan. 04 2013 12:51 PM
BK from PHX yo

Love this episode. Lulu's story was great. I believe that the question who are you, at this stage in our human intelligence, must be asked both scientifically and philosophically- one without the other is just lacking. Poor Charlie indeed, but Im wondering how much like charlie I am in my nice fenced suburban yard.

Dec. 03 2011 03:07 PM
Kathryn from Bozeman, MT

I love Radiolab, passionately, Lulu Miller is one of my favorite personas on the show and I'm a certifiable dog person.

All that said, I was psyched to come across the Charlie story. Still, as much as the piece was well written and well presented, somehow I missed the 'science' part of the story. A well-narrated tale of a woman reflecting on the loss of her beloved dog and tragically, it was indeed. A tale of a domestic animal pondering wildness, well, somehow I felt like I missed something and perhaps I did.

If Charlie was less like Toto and more of a young, rogue, husky-ish fella, hard to keep home, hard to temper his predator nature and definitely more closely genetically linked to his wild coyote cousins, I definitely would be on-board with questioning his longing for wildness and the possibility of him heading off into the woods to join their band.

While on its own the piece missed the mark for me, it could serve as a fabulous opener to a really interesting science piece on the domestication of animals and where the line between wild and domestic is drawn and where its rather blurry.

Just a suggestion...

Jun. 05 2011 09:52 PM
Karim Attoui

i second rose's thoughts on this. This wasn't really radiolab-ish.

Mar. 30 2011 12:08 PM

Such a touching story! Thank you for sharing!

Feb. 09 2011 11:52 PM
Gizem from New York, NY

That was so sweet

Nov. 24 2010 02:53 PM
Renate from Nice, France

I still have tears running down my cheeks.... :-(

Oct. 04 2010 09:20 AM
Matt Lakin

Poor Charlie..

Sep. 13 2010 01:45 PM

I love Radiolab, but I listen to it for a thoughtful approach to novel science topics, not for personal stories that end with unsatisfying speculation. As evocative as the dog story was, it didn't belong in the episode. Please, I want more Radiolab and less TAL!

Aug. 02 2010 08:58 PM

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