I know that some people, including some dog "owners," think of canines as just dogs. They seem to think that dogs just exist without any depth of thought or emotion. I tend to think that unless you interact with another entity, you can't know what makes them tick, whether they be human or canine or feline or whatever.
When I was a child, I grew up in homes in which children or dogs that misbehaved were given spankings. One day when my dear Lucky had misbehaved and I spanked him (even thinking of doing it makes me feel ill, but please remember it was what I was taught), I felt terrible about doing so. I remembered all of the terrible beatings I had endured and that all they had really taught me was fear. I decided right there to break the chain of abuse and deal with Lucky in a different way.
When Lucky did something he shouldn't, which wasn't often, he knew I would be unhappy about it. I would say, "Lucky, you come over here so I can spank you." He would obediently come over to me with an I'm-sorry-I-made-you-mad-but-please-still-love-me look in his beautiful brown eyes and intelligent face. I would tell him that I was very unhappy with his behavior and that I didn't even want to talk to him right now. He would lay down on the floor a few feet away from me, his eyebrows moving around as he watched my every move.
After a while, Lucky would test the waters to see if I was still angry with him. He would walk up to my chair and nudge under my reclining arm with his nose. If I was particularly disgusted with him, I would ignore his attempt to make up with me. He would sigh and resume his spot on the floor. When he came back and tried to lift my arm again, I would let him do so. He would toss my arm up enough that it was as though I was starting to pet him. I couldn't keep myself from smiling, and he scampered around while I told him that I loved him. I would stroke his silky black fur and tell him to give me a kiss, which he lovingly and politely placed on my chin or cheek. All was well with us once again.
Can you have a dog greet you excitedly when you come home and think that they don't care about you? Of course they are bored when you're gone. If they left for the day, you could watch tv, read a book (or even write one!), surf the internet, bake some cookies...the possibilities are endless. When you leave, your canine companion isn't sitting around reading Gone With the Wind or shopping on Amazon. A major part of their world has walked out of the door with you. Wolves are social pack animals, and so are their doggie descendants. When their pack leader comes home, they are thrilled to see their Alpha again, and will let them know in many ways.
Dogs, just like any human, will also get upset when they find out they have disappointed someone they care about. I remember once when Paris was very young and got too excited and forgot to go potty in her litter box. We were putting clean sheets on the bed and she was having fun getting tangled in the billows of cotton. Suddenly she had a tinkle accident right on the bed. Trent was very angry with his little girl and let her know about it. He took her in his arms and in a deep, angry voice told her that she had been a bad girl. She was so upset at making her daddy angry that she barfed all over him. Trent felt awful, and from that day forward he never held her while telling her she had been naughty.
There were other ways that she showed her devotion to us. When I went to get the mail, she would sit on the foot of the bed, watching the front door until my return. And when I went to Europe and left some unwashed clothes for her to snuggle with, she slept with them nightly, right on my pillow. On my return, she climbed into my suitcase to find the toy that she was certain I had in there for her. But what really tore at my heart was her crying when I came home. It sounded almost like it made her throat sore. I don't know if it hurt her throat, but it certainly tore at my heart.
Yes, it's definitely my opinion that dogs have feelings of love, sadness, loneliness, happiness, excitement, and more. They grieve as we do, perhaps not understanding things in the same ways, but still feeling loss. Our friend Melissa has had a lab-pointer mix named Cinnamon for sixteen years. Several months ago, they added a long-haired chihuahua to their family. Since he is big and tough and has long hair, his name is Chewbacca, with the nickname of Chewie. On Saturday, Cinnamon had to go to the veterinarian to get some help to go to the Rainbow Bridge. Melissa wanted to take Chewie along so that he could say goodbye and know what was going on, but the vet's office wasn't able to allow this. Since they came home without her, Chewie has been looking everywhere for his big sister. He looks in the yard and goes through the house looking for her, but she is not there. He ends up at her bed, which is empty. Anyone who believes that Chewie isn't feeling loss and heartbreak is someone that I have to disagree with. I hear of his searching and know that he is looking for the missing piece of his heart.
Whether you feel as I do or not may depend on a lot of things. If you've never had a dog, all of this is probably a mystery to you. If dogs have just been on the edges of your life, you may never have developed a relationship with one. They may have been more like a neighbor or roommate than a family member or treasured friend. But if, like me, you've had a close relationship with one or more of these marvelous creatures, you might think as I do, that these lovely animals possess a depth of feeling that matches many of the people you know. And like me, you'll treasure them for it.
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