A couple of weeks ago the world was taken by storm by the story of Alfie the psychic sheep… a five-year old woolly hero from England’s Cotswalds region now hailed for saving his dear shepherd’s life.
It’s hard to say which is more astonishing: the thought of psychic sheep or that shepherds actually still exist in England.
Anyway, the story goes that the normally well-behaved Alfie head-butted his shepherdess (or is it shepherdette?) Emma repeatedly in the chest as she attempted to give him some medicine. The head-butting caused a bruise and one thing lead to another and eventually Emma learned she had early stages of breast cancer.
Obviously, reader comments ticked over on the news site. People miffed that this simple coincidence was even newsworthy, other saying these intelligent animals have a better sense of smell than we do, others saying it is just normal behaviour when getting medicine and most agreeing that Alfie has escaped this year’s shepherd’s pie.
Through our research on meaningful nature experiences, I’ve come across a few uncanny stories like this one. From anecdotal evidence, explanations people have given me for their own encounters and emerging scientific insight, I think we can look at three possible scenarios for you to choose from:
1. Animal sensing: It is no surprise that animals can sense far more than we humans do. Especially in our age of desensitization to the sensuous natural world. And there is growing evidence to suggest we really are still a long way from understanding what animals actually perceive and experience. We can’t simply project our human vision of the world upon them. And, for one, they are more instinctively attuned and probably aren’t as distracted as we are with ‘worldly’ matters. Pets have been long known to sense human ailments/illness and I’ve recently heard a few stories of domestic cats perching and purring on injured parts of the human body. It’s quite possible that, where a strong human-animal bond exists (as it did in this case- Emma fought hard to save Alfie’s life as newborn), the latter may sense something isn’t right. Whether that sensing would be knowingly demonstrated via a harsh headbutt or three is another question.
2. Synchronicity: Alfie’s actions would definitely go into the meaningful nature experience category… synchronicity perhaps. The odds of such a thing happening appear – at least in Emma’s perception – to go beyond the realms of normal chance. Depending how far your interpretation of synchronicity goes, one could posture that an intelligent or divine life-force has perhaps intervened… driving Alfie’s instincts to display uncharacteristic behaviour which ultimately carried a message compelling Emma to act.
3. Causality irrelevant: Whether there is a causal explanation may be ultimately irrelevant. Regardless of what we think, Emma the shepherdette has perceived this encounter to be hugely meaningful and, one would imagine, personally transformational. She has derived an interpretation which may change the way she looks and acts toward sheep. One would expect her to display a deeper reverence and respect for all of the sheep-kind… And this can only be a good thing. Let’s hope such attitudes may be transferred to other species…preferably the endangered wild ones.
Where are all the breast-butting rhinos, tigers, pandas, polar bears or Patagonian toothfish when you need them?
Anyway, Emma was naturally moved enough by the event as to affectionately dedicate a Facebook page to Alfie. And ‘humble’ (that was how the media described him: do they actually know what proud and arrogant sheep look like?) Alfie now has like 25 times more Facebook friends than eyes4earth.org does. Not that I’m jealous (well, does a little bitterness count?) but I’m now wondering if I might get more ‘Likes’ if I were to randomly and forcefully direct my head into women’s chests. My excuse for such lewd behaviour? “Hey, can’t you see I’m sensing to save someone’s life here?!”