I could relay endless anecdotes about dogs, and even cats, who can understand what I was feeling based on non-human linguistic cues. They can pick up on cues that even a spouse can miss. I've actually been amazed at how dull human empathy can be compared to animals. Also remember that dogs are pack-oriented and so even their personal identity has strong social connection. I've cried almost in front of humans who detected nothing, but you would be hard-pressed to find a canine who could miss such a signal. The difference in empathetic intelligence is nearly stunning to me.
Edit @Beorn, I will respond to your post as well, but I'm having a little trouble understanding where you are coming from and so will need more time to think about it and how to respond in a way that is most relevant.
... I do think there is some kind of issue of "degree of existence" that speaks to intrinsic value, although I do appreciate the Janism view of respect for all life including insects. There might be a better way to phrase it, but it has to do with comprehension of existence, desire to maintain existence, or something along those lines that I find sacred and that I think there can be degree of, but also have a kind of intrinsic, infinite value. Perhaps there are different sizes of infinity, but I will have to think more to see if I can phrase it better. It's not about skill, but about degree of presence in reality.