A snooty conservative professor called Roger Scruton, an Englishman, wrote in the Times Literary Supplement earlier this year that "human beings are alone among the animals in revealing their individuality in their faces. The mouth that speaks, the eyes that glaze, the skin that flushes, all are signs of freedom, character and judgment, and all give concrete expression to the uniqueness of the self within."

What nonsense! In comparison with 90 percent of the people I see, I detect vastly more individual expressiveness on the faces of my dog (Jasper), horse (Agnes) and cat (Frank). When it comes to the physiognomic resources of the leader of the Free World, I'd claim superiority for my cockatiel (Percy).

With Reagan, a man whose face -- to judge from public appearances, was entirely immobile 99 percent of the time, I'd put up even my Gouldian finches as have a more sophisticated range of facial resources. With their cocking of the head my Gloucester finches are on a par with the late Great Communicator.

Jasper has the blood of Irish wolfhounds and other indeterminate canine DNA pulsing in his veins. Let me tell you, "the signs of freedom, character and judgment" are writ large on his whiskered mug every minute that passes. The other day, I handed him the remnants of a pork chop on which he deemed I had left insufficient meat, and before he picked up the morsel, he threw me a glance of such delicate reproach that Marcel Proust would have taken a couple of pages to describe its modalities.

Charles Darwin, a great dog lover, loved to study faces, of humans and animals, and in 1872, published "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals." Darwin included in his concept of "expression" body movement and posture as well as facial expression. His intent to show -- with hundreds of examples -- that both man and beast exist within the same continuum.

He, too, noted the delicacy of an animal expression: "The study of Expression is difficult, owing to the movements being often extremely slight, and of a fleeting nature."

There was nothing delicate in the reproach of Sinclair Lewis's sometime dog -- an Airedale -- which, in his youth, my father, Claud, once had to look after over Christmas in Berlin in the late 1920s, as he describes in his memoirs.

"It was a horrible Christmas for the dog, because just at that time I had run entirely out of money and was living chiefly on expectations of a check from the United States which never came. To begin with, the dog fed fairly well because the butcher round the corner always had a pile of scraps -- offal, bacon rind and the like -- which he gave me free when I bought some meat for myself. But on Christmas Eve, when everyone I knew had left town for the holiday, I found, distressingly, that I had only just enough money to buy a couple of drinks and some tobacco."

Then, "feeling very low, mentally and morally," my father went round to that same butcher and told him that he himself was, of course, invited to eat his Christmas dinner with friends and therefore did not wish to buy anything for myself but was anxious that the dog should have a particularly good Christmas dinner. The kindly butcher made up an unusually large and nasty-looking parcel of scraps, which my father took home and cooked.

"The dog watched me with satisfaction. But the next day at noon, when he saw me carefully dividing the mess into equal portions and putting only half of it on his plate, his disappointment and indignation knew no bounds. At first, he watched me with an expression of sheer incredulity. Then, when he saw me actually digging my fork into that portion of his dinner that I had reserved for myself, he got up on his hind legs, with his forepaws on the table, and threw back his head, howling in astonishment and despair at the pass things had come to."

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.