August 13th, 2010


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.