Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Guest Blog: Michelle Dougherty, Windsong Resort for Pets

What Does A Dog Know?

Dogs know when they are with people who like them.

They know how to make choices that will affect their situation.

Recent studies have shown they have a sense of fair play (“Rover got five biscuits and I only got one, I’m not doing the trick anymore”).

Dogs and other animals can detect fear, or maybe they sense it because of a perceptiveness to changes in our body chemistry. They can sniff out disease and find misplaced items or lost people.

Dogs know when we’re sad, and they occasionally are mad (“What do you mean I can’t sleep on the bed anymore?”), but then quickly forgive us.

Dogs could survive just fine without human companions, as the marauding coyotes in my neighborhood attest to, yet they choose to stick with us. How infrequently dogs are walked on a leash these days. How is ‘Dog Beach’ even possible? Quite often when people arrive in our parking lot, they fling open the car’s rear door and out jumps Fido, free as a bird. The humans trust that Fido will not wander too far, and will quickly return when called… miraculously he does. He listens despite new smells that need to be explored and investigated, despite the little bird sitting on a branch over there that would be fun to chase, despite a pressing obligation to mark every low growing shrub as newly conquered territory.

Dogs know when a person is putting trust in them, and they desperately want to live up to our expectations. (Training and bonding over time go into developing this kind of relationship, and understanding of a dog’s distinct personality. It would obviously not be a good idea to let a dog off-leash without reasonable assurance that he or she will come back when called.)

If Mama could talk to us with human words, what else would she tell us that she knows? Instead she communicates with her eyes, with sniffs, with quiet gestures - like her head on your shoulder, or a gentle paw on your wrist. She surely must be wise beyond her years. Could she have tried to make the best of a bad situation, while hoping for something better to turn out for her? What does she dream of? How does she feel about her life today? Hopefully when modern science allows us to more effectively communicate with animals, Mama will still be around, so she can write her memoirs.

Visiting the San Diego County Fair this weekend? Stop by and see Michelle's musical bears exhibit in the Flower & Garden Show.

1 comment:

  1. What a though-provoking piece. When I think back on every dog I've ever known, this rings so true.