By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Recently some ingenious neuroscientist published an article in the New York Times with the astounding news that dogs experience love just like people do. I don’t know how much money was spent on this study but I think it’s pretty safe to say that most dog owners could have spared him the time and expense of the “investigation”. We KNOW that our dogs love us. And we didn’t have to train them to sit in one of those blasted MRI tubes to figure that out. But it got me to thinking … maybe I can get in on this dog behavior study trend and make myself a little extra cash on the side. As it happens, Dash the Wonder Dog, will turn one year old this month so I began to reflect on all of the “newsworthy” discoveries we’ve made over the past few months. Purely in the interest of science, here are my observations:
1. DOGS ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR AEROBIC EXERCISE
I know – you read all the time about how good dogs are for getting people out to exercise. True, a dog forces you to get up off of your duff and take it outside. But that’s about the extent of the exercise at our house. Dash will lead me as far as the end of our driveway and then screech to a stop. Apparently there is a VERY interesting bush that needs to be examined and re-examined every day. And peed on. As we progress on the “walk” I take 20 steps forward and 15 steps back. There is not a leaf that goes uninvestigated. And he has all the airs of a snotty French waiter – a little upward tilt of the head and a big sniff – as if he is trying to assess the “bouquet” of the urine left by previous dogs. Once home, he is exhausted and I head off the to the gym.
2. DOGS ARE GREAT JUDGES OF CHARACTER
In the past year I’m sure we’ve met close to 500 people that we would otherwise have just walked past. Most everyone wants to stop and pet Dash or at least they give him a smile when they look at his face. We have met Judy Blumberg, the Olympic figure skater, and Edward Villella, the famous ballet dancer, because they wanted to talk about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. More importantly, we have met countless warm and wonderful people who I happen to belive are geniuses because they thought our dog was cute. We have actually perfected what I call our “asshole test”. If someone walks by Dash and doesn’t at least crack a smile, they’re obviously an asshole. Harsh? Perhaps. But I’ve got a lot on my plate and I think this is as good a quick filter as any to determine whether someone is worth getting to know.
3. DOGS KNOW A PIGEON WHEN THEY SEE ONE
Dogs are very smart when it comes to figuring out which “parent” to go to achieve the desired result. In our house, I’m the one Dash looks plaintively at when it’s food or treat time. And usually I’m the one who has to draw the line when it comes to discipline. Dash has slept in a crate by my side of the bed since the day we brought him home, but a couple of weeks ago he underwent some major surgery so the vet told us to keep a vigilant eye on him. Which my husband, Mr. “I’m Not Sure We Should Get A Dog”, interpreted as Dash sleeping on the bed with us that night. And the next…and next…and next. Now when I tell Dash to go to bed he runs over to my husband’s side of the bed and won’t come near me. As to where this is headed I’ll leave it at this – Dash recently acquired his own pillow.
4. DOGS ARE CAREFREE
We humans could learn a lot from our dogs about chilling out a bit. You don’s see them worrying about whether the house is clean enough for guests or what might happen if the 49ers lose. Life to them is about sleeping, comforting and playing. Not a bad way to go through life – not caring one whit that their owner might be the teensiest bit mortified as they “do their business” in the middle of the hardware store. Certainly I’m not suggesting that we all take on that particular trait (God forbid) but as the bumper sticker says, “A little less bark and a little more wag” would probably do us all some good.
Alas, as every dog owner knows, dogs just don’t live long enough. Seems to me that some researcher ought to be working on that. It seems unfair that we should have such devoted companions, only to lose them far too soon. The last time I had to put a dog to sleep I cried for weeks. Years later just a picture of her would elicit tears. So I started a tradition with Dash the first night we brought him home. Just before we go to sleep (and it’s ever so much more convenient now that he is right next to me) I take time for one last snuggle and to review our day. I talk about the things we did and the people we met. I tell him what a sweet boy he is and thank him for another wonderful day together. Because I know that the days go by much too quickly. At the end of his life, I will know that I told him just how special he is every single day of his life .
But today we are a long way from that day….today we will play fetch until my arm gives out and I’ll probably put some funny hat on him and stick a candle in his kibble. And I’ll try to figure out how I can make headlines in the New York Times stating the blatantly obvious…DOGS ARE GREAT!
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