Dogs have assimilated themselves into the human world with such ease, that it can be difficult not to think of them as people. We tack on human emotions with every look and gesture our furry friends give us. Dogs forgive us time and again our ignorance of canine etiquette and behavior; they remind us daily to embrace our inner dog. Occasionally, we heed the call and find ourselves howling at the full moon. More often than not, however, we scratch our heads at their not-so-subtle hints.
Gary came home from work the other day. As always, his mini Dachshund was eagerly waiting for him at the front door. Gary scooped him up, giving hugs and kisses, before sending the dog out back to go potty. Leaving the back door open, Gary flopped on the couch and began answering emails and text messages that had accumulated throughout the day. Completely engrossed in his task, he scarcely looked up as he heard the click, click, click of tiny nails on the linoleum in the kitchen. Thirty seconds later a cold, wet present was dropped on his bare foot. Assuming it was a tennis ball Gary reached down without looking and grabbed the object to throw. He dropped it with a scream. His pup had brought him a dead, frozen squirrel. The dog cocked his head to the side, probably wondering why the negative reaction had even occurred.
Beth slept through her alarm, tripped over her Newfoundland on the way to the bathroom, bounced her face off the wall, before going down on all fours. The Newfie came over to inspect the damage, slobber drooled into her hair, and Beth’s face was kissed with a massive tongue. Pushing the 125 pound dog away, Beth hopped into the shower and proceeded to get ready for the day. Feeding the massive pup her breakfast, Beth gave her dog a kiss on top of the large head and bolted out the door. It wasn’t until her first meeting of the day she noticed the huge, pasty rope of dried drool that clung to her pant leg.
Reese noticed something oddly comforting within weeks of adopting her Beagle mix. She found the dog seemed to have an affinity for sitting with dying animals. It started with the guinea pig that reached old age. The dog sat next to the cage, in their final days, keeping vigil. Whining whimpers of comfort, the Beagle would not let the cats within six feet of the cage, keeping the area quiet, for a peaceful transition across the rainbow bridge. Over the course of five years this happened with a second guinea pig, two parakeets, a cockatiel and a geriatric cat. Reese praised the dog for being such a comfort after each death. When Reese fell ill with the flu, the dog curled up on the bed next to her. Reese felt well comforted, until the dog lunged and snarled at her husband when he tried to bring a mug of tea into the bedroom.
Every day, dogs try to show us their ways of expressing themselves, ways we don’t necessarily understand. I am no closer to understanding canine behavior after a lifetime of sharing space with them and a decade of working closely with them. What dogs do convey to us, every single day, is to slow down and take time to sniff the roses. You never know what interesting experiences you may be passing up by rushing through life.