Before Chimps, Jane Goodall's Ani-Pals Were Dogs and Snails
"I desperately wanted a parrot so I could learn animal language," Goodall tells PEOPLE. "In fact, for about several months, I pretended to my friends that I could understand [the animals] and I translated what the squirrels were saying."
Goodall's mother was supportive of her child's interest in animals, but also kept the creatures' well-being in mind. On one vacation to the English seaside, Goodall collected a bucketful of "these beautiful little yellow shells." She brought them home and scattered them all throughout the house.
"Of course they all had snails in them, so my mom said, 'These are going to die, they need the sea,'" Goodall says. A sobbing young Goodall immediately had her family help her collect all the snails and they drove them all back to the ocean.
But it was a teacher Goodall had a teenager that she credits with nurturing her understanding of animals. This teacher was named Rusty, and was the family dog.
"He was special because he was just unusually intelligent," Goodall adds. "He proved to me that dogs can reason."
Rusty waited for Goodall to return from school each day, and she says that she could not have left England for Africa in her 20s if he was still with her.
"He was not like any other dog that I'd met," Goodall says. "We were inseparable."
Throughout her life, Goodall would see the similar intelligence and abilities in other animals, especially chimpanzees, for which at 76, she continues to advocate tirelessly.
Read more about chimpanzees on PEOPLEPets.com:
Chimp Artists Make a Colorful Splash in a Louisiana Art Exhibit
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