Thursday, March 05, 2015

Dog Emotions

This is my dog Bambu.  She has a difficult job, but she does it very well.  Her job?  "Being Cute". It is the only thing that seems to be required of her other than being constantly at my side. Who knows exactly what motivates a dog other than food. We assume they have emotions that are similar to ours although "food motivation" could account for most of the actions I interpret as her emotions.   But then there was this....
During our walk yesterday we reached our neighborhood park.  It is nearly always filled with dogs and dog owners and although the sign says dogs are supposed to be on leash, the "regulars" rarely abide by that rule. Yesterday there were only a few patrons of the park when Boo and I arrived.  
Alone at one end of the park was a lady with her dog off leash. It looked as if they both wanted the time to themselves, but Boo decided to run over and say Hi. Usually Boo will not venture too far away and comes when I call but not this time.  
The lady did not seem open and friendly like most of the dog owners in this park.  It looked as if she was a little scared of Boo coming toward her.  When I realized Boo was not to be swayed from having a sniff I said, "She is a very friendly dog." 
That statement usually gets a response from other dog owners. They will say... "So is mine", or "My dog is a little aggressive" and we sort out the decorum of dog dominance with small talk. Body language from the Lady suggested she was not thrilled that Boo was being so attentive to her dog. Boo eventually licked the dog's face and nudged it tenderly.  I had never seen her do that before. Trying to ease the fears of the lady I said, "Well, your dog seems to be taking all this attention in stride." 
With that the lady burst into tears.  Through her sobbing she said that her dog was 19 years old and very ill.  They were on the way to the Vet's clinic to have her put to sleep. This was the dog's last trip to this park.  A park that had been her favorite play space in the past. 
There is nothing one can say about this situation.  I told her I had gone through the same experience a few years ago and understood.  But it was of little comfort. She apologized saying, "Sorry to cry like that. You had no idea what you were getting into did you?" I'm not even sure what my response was other than trying to make it all okay for a moment. I was on the verge of tears myself.
Boo licked the old dog one more time and we walked away giving them the space they needed. Twice Boo looked back at the dog as we walked deeper into the park.  Boo looked at the dog, looked at me, then back at the dog.  It could have been my own projected emotions, but in Boo's eyes I saw the sadness of understanding.  
This morning I am still thinking of that experience. It seems to have significance, but my question is: Was this chance encounter for her benefit or mine. I know we two strangers connected on a complicated emotional level that even seemed to affect the demeanor of my dog Boo. And I will need more evidence to the contrary to convince me that Dogs don't have emotions.
As you were,


P. Grecian said...

They do. They get it. My oldest one, Cassie, has a sense of humor, too, and goes out of her way to make me laugh.
Dogs are special people, I think.

Cheryl said...

Dogs - cats - all animals do. You have beautifully put your experience into words. Very emotional right now.....

Dave Robison said...

I'm sure skeptics will disagree, but animals sense sickness and sadness in people and other animals. Boo knew where Boo was needed at exactly the right time.

And to that other dog, gone now...

"Go to sleep. Good Dog"