Rico the border collie understands more than 200 words, according to a recently released study from German researchers. That's heartening news for pet lovers who speak to their furry and feathered companions on a regular basis. They can tell their doubting spouses and friends that Fido, Fluffy and Polly do indeed understand. However, to animal communicators, that is a limited view of dog - and another animal - understanding. Pointing to a 200-word vocabulary misses the global comprehension our friends possess. Animals are telepathic. When animals "talk" to me, there is no 200-word limit. They can be both subtle and profound in the thoughts they convey. And some scientists believe we humans communicated telepathically before language was created. Animals read our thoughts, both spoken and unspoken. You've all heard of the cats or dogs who have mysteriously disappeared before a scheduled trip to the vet. Whereas in reality, there is no mystery. The pets read the owner's mind and sought shelter. However, you don't need to worry about their knowing everything about us. They tire of the constant chatting in our minds and frequently tune us out to get a little peace and quiet. And there are certain concepts that are not part of their world view and thus remain opaque to them and impenetrable. The abstract concept of money and wealth is one example. The future is vague to our friends since they live in an eternal present, a concept that might add some relief and joy to our own lives if we are clever enough to learn from them. I don't mean to downplay the results of this study. In fact, the larger the pet's vocabulary, the easier it is to communicate directly about specific objects or give specific commands. But I am plagued by the nagging feeling that these types of studies can serve to reinforce the notion that human beings are superior because our vocabulary is more extensive. That's not a fair comparison. Animals communicate with each other quite effectively through telepathy and body language. Judging their intelligence based on their recognition of our vocabulary is a prime example of a non-level playing field. Suppose you were to visit a French-speaking country. Would you want the local residents to judge your intelligence based on your prowess in speaking French? Having spent years as a college professor, let me assure you that 200 plus words does not necessarily fall very short of the human capability. Scientists now seem to be leaning toward a problem solving ability as a better measure of I.Q. If that were the only yardstick, I'd have to declare some of my four-footed clients and some of my own brood as having achieved genius status. Many owners admit their pets have trained them as much as they have trained the so-called "lower species". The approach I prefer to take is to enjoy our friends for who they are naturally, rather than as imperfect versions of humans. Meanwhile, I'll drink a toast to Rico and to the researchers who are smart enough to learn from him. Waterfront Journal