Glenn Close interviews Jane Goodall

Q and A with Jane Goodall

found below at

Posted on Jul 1, 2009
By Glenn Close

Licking Friend

Two summers ago, my husband, David, and I hosted Jane Goodall at our house in Maine for four days. It was an unforgettable experience.

I suppose charisma is a core characteristic for someone destined to become a global icon, but my first impressions of Jane belied her passion and ferocity. Into our home walked a tallish, unadorned, totally unassuming presence. Her gray, shoulder-length hair was smoothly pulled back into a ponytail. Her clear, open face was devoid of make-up. What first struck me was her voice. Jane spoke softly with a classy, English accent. I observed over the next few days that she was able to calibrate her voice brilliantly to the size of whatever group she was talking to — making it just loud enough so that her listeners were compelled to lean towards her in order to not miss a word. It was mesmerizing. The other thing I noticed was the twinkle of mischief in her eyes. She doesn’t have the gaze of a pessimistic alarmist; she has a gaze full of energy and hope. David and I learned that she loves to laugh and she loves an occasional glass of good Scotch.

Licking Friend

I have two favorite memories from our time with Jane. The first was when David took her to a dinner engagement on the back of his Harley; Jane laughing with delight, clutching her toy monkey mascot, Mr. H., to her chest, as they roared down the driveway. The second was the night we took her out onto the cliffs not far from our house, where the ocean crashes against massive, slabs of granite, only seen on the coast of Maine. For a moment, we silently sipped our Scotches, lit by a full moon, listening to the sea. As I watched Jane looking up into the night sky, I immediately thought of all the night skies she has witnessed, in all the remote places where she has spent much of her life. And I thought of the rigorous commitment, the ferocity of spirit, the empathy and the sheer energy that has compelled this unassuming, fascinating woman to be one of the world’s greatest advocates for endangered species and the environment.

So, it is an understatement to say that I am proud to host Jane on LIVELY LICKS. Please go on from this to inform yourselves about the Jane Goodall Institute, especially their global organization, Roots and Shoots, that teaches us what we all can do, right here in our communities, to make a difference.

Glenn Close: You have had a life-long curiosity about how animals and humans impact each other’s existence. Chimps have obviously played an important role in your life, but what about dogs — a species that coexists with mankind possibly closer than any other? Why do you think humans have been so connected to dogs over the millennia?
Jane Goodall: I find it easy to believe there was a symbiotic relationship between wolves, from whom all dogs are descended, and our earliest ancestors. The humans hunting and the wolves getting some of the food in return for protecting the humans from predators such as bears. (Wolves can see off grizzlies.) There is growing evidence of close bonds that used to exist — maybe still — between wolves and the Native American and first nation people. So the relationship seems to have been handed down.

GC: What is your earliest memory of a dog?
JG: My parents had Peggy, a white bull terrier. I loved her. (The postmen didn’t. They were terrified. She nipped their trousers — probably protecting me and Mum kept having to buy new pairs for them!) In the end it got too much for her. Peggy became the adored and spoiled mascot of a British regiment. I forget which one.

Sgt. Allen HillDog and Wheelbarrow
Photo Courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute

GC: Did you have your own dog as a child?
JG: When I was about 10 years old, I fell in love with a blue roan cocker spaniel pup. He cost 18 guineas (£1 and 1 shilling). We had no money, but I had inherited an antique doll house. Mum allowed me to sell it to get Chase, as I called him. I adored him. A few months later, he was hit by a car and killed. I was devastated for the longest time. The first photo I ever took on an old box brownie was of Chase.

GC: How has your relationship with dogs differed from your relationships with other animals?
JG: Dogs are our companions and friends. They trust us and are loving and loyal. And forgiving. My relationship with chimpanzees is totally different. I respect them and we trust each other. When an acquaintance in Dar es Salaam found me crying about one of my dogs who was very sick he said, in a scathing way, “If you are like this over a dog (read ‘mere dog,’ it was implied) what on earth are you like when it is one of your precious chimps?” It is quite different. I am sorry for a chimpanzee and try to help. It does not expect anything from me. The dog trusts one and, like a child, if sick or frightened expects that you will make everything all right. Thus if you cannot, you feel you have betrayed him.

GC: What do you think dogs like most about you?
JG: I treat them as their own selves. I do not “own” them, in the sense that their spirit is free Discipline is important — they need to know the rules. They want to please. Once they are disciplined they are free within that space. Then they can go everywhere with you (if dogs are allowed, that is). Also I understand them. Their communication. I know if a dog pants (unless after exercise) it is a communication. The dog wants something — usually to go out and pee!

GC: Generally speaking, what is it about dogs that you admire the most?
JG: I admire the fact that they are so loyal, have so much love to give and are so forgiving. They are seldom deceitful. And I admire that they live in the moment, and express utter joy when they anticipate a walk, a game or dinner.

Sgt. Allen HillBeach at Sunset in Bournemouth
Photo © Michael Neugebauer

JG: Who was the most exceptional dog you’ve ever known?
GC: Without any doubt it was Rusty. He was my childhood companion. We did everything together. He taught me about animal personality, mind and emotions. He was not even mine, strictly. He was a mongrel who belonged to a hotel round the corner, but arrived each morning at about 6.30 a.m. and barked for admittance. He went home for lunch and dinner. And eventually we told him to go home when we went to bed. His “owners” knew all this and did not mind at all! I could never have left for Africa had Rusty still been alive. I could not have lived with such a sense of betrayal. It was bad enough going to school for a day and then for a week or so at a time when I had my jobs in Oxford and London.

Sgt. Allen HillJane and Rusty
Photo Courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute

GC: Have you ever observed a dog having a special relationship with a chimpanzee?
JG: I am absolutely fascinated by this. Every dog I have known that had an opportunity to have a relationship with a (captive) chimpanzee did so. The book I wrote, Rickie and Henri, is a true story. One little five-year-old orphaned rescued chimp would play wild games with a huge Rottweiler. She pulled his ears and poked his eyes and even made him sometimes whimper. He never hurt her, except accidentally, when she whimpered.

GC: If you could suddenly speak the language of dogs, what would be the first thing you’d say to them?
JG: It would depend on the dog. If it was to dogs in general, I would apologize for the cruel behavior they so often suffer from humans.

GC: If you were a dog, what kind would you be?
JG: A street-wise mongrel (You call a mutt!) with a good home. Like the Tramp in Lady and the Tramp, my very favorite Disney film!

GC: Have you ever consciously espoused any of the animal behaviors you’ve observed when you, yourself, have been faced with a difficult or frightening situation?
JG: No.

GC: What do you think is the most common misperception people have about dogs?
JG: That it’s okay to leave them alone all day, day after day.

GC: To what aspects of behavior do you give most attention when introduced to a dog for the first time?
JG: I find out the previous history first and then notice the eyes. Does he/she look directly at you? Or is there quick looking away. What is expression? How are ears? What sort of tail movements are there?

GC: What should new dog owners be most aware of?
JG: Again, the previous history. That the dog needs company and love. That he will want to please. Training should be through reward, not punishment — unless it is the tone of voice. Some dogs are content with a pat, a word of praise. Some do better with the odd treat. The dog will not do well left alone all day. The dog should be allowed out a minimum of three times a day.

Sgt. Allen HillPhoto © Thomas D. Mangelsen/Mangelsen Stock –
All Rights Reserved

GC: Do you think there are naturally vicious dogs, or is it all learned behavior?
JG: I think some dogs certainly tend to be more aggressive than others.

GC: Why are dogs so loyal and forgiving?
JG: They are descended from pack animals. We are their “pack.” It is important they be accepted. Wolves are loyal to their pack leader and appease themselves, wanting forgiveness, if there is aggression. They want to be part of the pack on which they depend.

GC: What is the status of the wild dog populations in Africa, and is JGI involved in conservation efforts?
JG: They are highly endangered, perhaps numbering 3,000 and they are gone from several countries where they once were. JGI is not directly involved in this area. I direct our Roots & Shoots members who are interested to the website ( of Greg Rassmussen and his fellow workers who are studying and conserving the wild dog — the Painted Dogs. You can buy exquisite little models made of wire from confiscated snares. They seem not to be advertised on their website right now.

GC: What is the most valuable gift that animals give to mankind?
JG: Humility. They help us to realize that we are part of a wondrous kingdom, that of the animals. They teach us that there are many ways of accomplishing the same thing. Roots & Shoots, all over the world, has members working passionately to help stray dogs in a whole variety of ways. We are doing a LOT in China, for example.

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Shop For CharityThe Jane Goodall Institute, , advances the power of individuals to take informed and compassionate action to improve the environment for all living things. Read more…

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The Roots & Shoots program is about making positive change happen — for our communities, for animals and for the environment. With tens of thousands of young people in 110 countries, the Roots & Shoots network connects youth of all ages who share a desire to create a better world. Young people identify problems in their communities and take action. Through service projects, youth-led campaigns and an interactive website, Roots & Shoots members are making a difference across the globe.

Click here for more information.

Read how one Roots & Shoots group is making a difference for an animal shelter in Maine.

Courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute

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