Time magazine recently published a story called “Secrets of the Canine Mind.”
Honestly, much of it was too esoteric for this human mind, but it basically told of several ongoing studies to understand what makes a dog think like a human.
Canine research facilities, it said, have been established throughout Europe and elsewhere; in the United States, Duke, Tufts and Yale universities have similar facilities.
From what I can understand, researchers have put science behind what any one of the millions of dog owners around the world already know. Listen to one researcher:
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“What’s it like to be a dog? No one can know with certainty. But I think our dogs are experiencing things very much the way we do.”
A British researcher put it more succinctly: “Dogs pick up on all kinds of things. A system has developed in which both species – ours and theirs – attend to each other’s needs.”
Like most every other dog owner (Time put the U.S. canine population at 80 million) can attest, a dog has a distinct personality that sometimes mirrors our own, but not always. I’m not sure we need a ton of research to tell us that.
Take my own experience with a little man we call Wasabi, a hybrid American cocker and French bijon frise.
For one thing, Wasabi is suspicious of strangers we meet on our walks. Nothing wrong with that. When kids or others try to pet him, he hustles away, finding safety behind me.
One little girl remarked, “He’s shy.” I liked that. Yes, he’s shy, not scared to death of a 6-year-old.
I think Wasabi has a touch of OCD. Virtually the only times he barks is when something is out of place. Leave a mop out, he won’t stop ’til you put it away. Move his water dish? Better put it back where it belongs, NOW!
We don’t get many visitors, but when we do Wasabi is the first to know. He alerts us with a whole different bark, a shrill it-may-be-an-ax-murderer bark. He won’t stop until he’s assured it’s just a neighbor. Then he’s the friendliest guy in the room.
As every dog owner knows, no one extends the same excited greeting after you’ve been gone for an hour or five hours or, God forbid, a day or two or more. Wasabi jumps up a few times, then grabs a toy and begins playing with it – telling himself that once again all is right with the world. Pop’s home. Or Mom.
At night, he is often the first to remind us that it’s time for bed. First, he’ll fall asleep on a lap. If that doesn’t work, he’ll get up and head for his kennel, then wait for his bedtime treat. It’s like clockwork and it happens at the same time every night.
On our little trips, we’ll often visit stores along the way and in the pet-friendly ones he’ll wander around, sniffing stuff on the lower shelves but never touching. It’s almost like he saw a sign when he walked in: “You chew it, you buy it.”
So, no, I don’t need scientific studies to tell me all the human traits Wasabi – and most every other dog everywhere – demonstrates.
And I especially liked what Time writer Jeffrey Kluger said at the end of his piece:
“Dogs are like us in their joy and empathy and inexhaustible curiosity, and we – at least when we’re in their presence – become more like them.
“We are both better species for our very long union.”
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.