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Gone to the dogs

I was reading a Jezebel post on pooches yesterday, and clearly the author wasn't a dog owner.
Breaking down the whole women love cats while men prefer dogs stereotype is a new study, which found that women are often closer to their canine companions than men. Should we be surprised?

The Daily Express reports that the survey, commissioned by a dog food company, found that women are far more likely to confide in their dogs. While only 10% of men tell their dogs their "darkest secrets," double that number of women admitted to treating their puppy like a therapist. Most dog owners describe their pet as a "trusted companion," but a full third called them their "most loyal partner."

This is all pretty standard pet-owner stuff, but they also found this crazy statistic: 14% of female dog owners believe that their dog can read their mind. I would normally give these women the benefit of the doubt — let's say they meant that metaphorically? — but I've known enough crazy pet owners to believe their findings. And, in a sense, maybe they're not that crazy. Of course, dogs can't really understand what's going on in our heads, but they sure do have a knack for picking up on emotions, as most "dog people" will tell you. Unlike cats, who tend to come and go as they please, affectionate dogs are always affectionate - and in a time of need, this may seem like a calculated bid for your love.
(Emphasis original)

I'm actually surprised that the reported number of mind reading dogs is so low. Of course they can tell what you're thinking. For sixteen years, I did everything in my power to avoid upsetting Relampago by letting him know I was leaving the house. He always knew, sometimes before I did. I changed patterns. I would pack up my things hours in advance. I'd put on shoes for no apparent reason. I'd leave my keys outside so he'd never see them. I'd "act casual". Nothing worked. Without me having made a move towards a leash or a doggie bag, he could tell when he was going to get to go along and when I was going to leave him behind. Same for baths. The second I started thinking "Hmm, Relampago needs a bath," panic overtook the dog. Same for food. Same for going to bed. Same for knowing exactly when I needed to hug him.

While I'm 62% sure that he didn't have some sort of ESP or telepathy linked to me in particular, he was uber perceptive of my every movement, smell, change in posture. I was his universe, and he paid attention to every single thing I did. He picked up on my mood, my emotions, and my physical state. He probably knew what was going on with me before I did consciously, because I'm certain that I had some patterns or habits that were instinctive or unconscious. I never knew about them, but he certainly did. I was his everything, and so he focused on me like a laser. There was no way he wasn't going to catch and interpret my every move.

And of course, the bond went both ways. Of course that dog knew my every secret. He was with me for 16 years, and we lived alone for a good hunk of that. He was the one whose fur I sobbed on for three months after I got dumped in 2006. He was the one that I drove home to after I couldn't find a job in DC in 1999. He was the one that spent hours and hours and hours studying for the bar exam with me in the Januarys of 1998 and 2000. We pondered the beauty of the Grand Canyon together, and we argued over the merits of baby cow shit as an aperitif together. We went through school, moved across the country (twice), we bought a home, we fell in love, and we adopted a baby girl together. Of course that dog knew everything. How could he not?

Celosa and Crianza are no less perceptive, no less aware of their people, and no less in on what's going on in our family. They too know what's going on well before they're told. They too clue in on moods, emotions and feelings. (Graham had an awful cold this week, and Celosa, usually a bouncy active little thing, sweetly curled up on him to share her love a little more closely.) They're very different dogs. Celosa is active and cheerful and playful and funny, her kisses are frequent and all consuming. Crianza is sweet but serious and a little reserved, her kisses are rarer but much appreciated. Crianza is bonded a little mroe closely to Graham, and Celosa is bonded a little more closely to me. They know the sound of our vehicles, they know the sound of our footsteps. They can tell the second we're thinking about waking up, they can tell if it's a false alarm. They can instantly tell if our departure means treats (we're leaving with out them) or leashes (we're taking them with us). They know how to manipulate us into giving tummy rubs, and they know the EXACT amount of attention/food/rubbing/water the other one got. Or even if we're thinking about giving the other puppy something. The major difference between Celosa and Crianza and Relampago is that they didn't get the years and years and years of one on one time that Relampago got with me. But having TWO puppies to talk to, to make silly songs up about, to tell that they're pretty and lovely and cute, to get into fights about bath time over---that's one of the most lovely joys in the world.

The only thing crazy about that above statistic is that more dog owners didn't report their dogs' unbelievable perception.


( 9 comments — Say something )
Aug. 13th, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
I saw a program on TV (documentary? Not sure) some years ago that, IIRC, was about how dogs could predict when their human was approaching the house before it was technically visible/audible. They were testing the theory by mixing up factors -- time, direction of arrival, maybe (?) even mode of transportation. My memories of this program are hazy but they seemed to be demonstrating that dogs have some sense of their owner's impending proximity that wasn't tied to anything they could measure.
Aug. 13th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
Stevie can tell you about Relampago waiting on the couch for me to come home when we lived together in Berkeley.

And I don't have a set time for coming home from work. Usually it's within an hour between 5:45 and 6:45, but my puppies always know that I'm about to come. I almost always call Graham as I'm walking to my car to tell him that I'm on my way, and almost always, the puppies have already moved from whereever they were in the house to the couch next to the driveway to look out the window and await my return. The same goes for Graham. They can tell the difference between his scooter and the half dozen or so scooters that go down our street in our neighborhood in any two hour period. It's almost impossible for us to sneak up on them.
Aug. 13th, 2010 07:28 pm (UTC)
Houdini does the same thing - she jumps up into the front window just as I approach the house - I can see her from the street. She knows the sound of my footsteps on the sidewalk - 'cause I know she doesn't do that for every person who walks by. It doesn't happen as much in the wintertime because my footfall is more uneven when the sidewalk is covered.

Talon, although a love, is WAY less perceptive than Houdini. She's the one who sits on my head when I have a migraine. I think the weight and the purring help. ;)
Aug. 13th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC)
She's not so good about the waking up thing, though. She's determined to let me know that the birdies are up, and so should I be. If my alarm has actually gone off - heaven help me. ;)
Aug. 13th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
I remember when Mama A went to Russia in the mid 80s. Regis was very much *her* cat and only tolerated me (until she was dying a few years later, when he became a huge lovey to me), and he decided not to come home for several days while she was gone. I dreaded telling her he was missing!

He came home singing his "Mama! Mama! Mama!" song the day she was due home. I went out to see if he'd come in and tell him she'd be home soon. She drove up about 2 minutes later, which means she was 6-12 blocks away when he came home, driving thru traffic, so I don't think he could have possibly heard her with his physical ears.

Some of ours now know Paul's on his way home about 2 minutes before he turns into the driveway, no matter how heavy the traffic is.
Aug. 13th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
Patricia McConnell talks in her books about how dogs are experts at reading body language. Since we don't have a shared spoken language, they rely on all other cues to read a situation. She talks about how we're throwing off messages all the time that we don't even recognize that are dogs see and interpret. (She also talks about to be better attuned to the signals are dogs are sending to us too, which is pretty neat.) At one point in one of her books she mentions how people become really impressed and proud when their dogs learn to recognize and obey hand signals and says that what's really more remarkable is that so many dogs learn and obey verbal signals.

But the discussion reminds me of the time when I was out of town for a few days. When I picked Sheba up from where I boarded her, the owner was saying that Sheba got all excited the previous afternoon, like she knew she was going home. She was off by a day but upon further discussion, the time of day that she got all excited? Was the time that I was boarding the flight for home. Overall it was probably meaningless, but I still can't help thinking that it was kind of cool.
Aug. 13th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
dogs know a LOT more than people give credit for. and they can be so humorously silly! the wolfy-puppy was not allowed in the bedroom (nor was the cat) because of the ex's allergies. wolfy would lie at the open door and watch me. and slooooowly sneak one paw across the treshold. when i asked him what he was doing, he'd snatch it back and look at me like "i wasnt doing nothing, mama!"

i miss him. i miss having a dog. i'm considering wearing the man down on this issue. ;)
Aug. 13th, 2010 08:44 pm (UTC)
That does seem a VERY low percentage of people reporting!
Aug. 14th, 2010 01:55 am (UTC)
There are dogs who can sense an epileptic fit coming on (even without being trained to do it. My dogs follow us and are picking stuff up really fast. Today I thought I would give them a special treat because I wanted to (we limit treats). They honestly think that Puperoni is "doggie crack". We usually give them pieces when they go to bed (we crate them because our cat doesn't get along with our dogs and the cat is too old at 17 to try to force the issue. She gets her run-around the house time after the pups go to bed). Today I started to get the pupperoni and they ran to their crates and got in, waiting for the goodies. They were a bit confused when I didn't close their door but I know now they have decided that this is the pattern for going to bed.

I love our babies.
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