Over the years, I have often wondered what my dogs were thinking about. Some of the expressions that we take to be sad or forlorn may be the complete opposite, for all we know. Ollie’s wrinkled face can conjure up some unusual expressions, but in his case that curly tail is the true indicator of his mood. Some humourists have done well with captions added to photos, suggesting what our pets might actually be thinking, or saying to us. But as their conversation is non-existent, and even barks and growls seem to carry little meaning other than as warnings, we have to remain mystified.
When it comes to Ollie, I confess that I never try to attribute human feelings or emotions to him. I dislike the presumption that the canine mind has much similarity to human thought processes. I prefer to be realistic, and to conclude that dogs are animals ruled by instinct. They live in a world dominated by smells, food, and sleep. Although they can be trained to carry out quite complex tasks, they do not really understand why they are doing them, just that the action pleases the owner. In short, they are one of the least intelligent animals, sad but true. They yearn to know their position in a pack, to ascend the pecking order where possible, or to accept their status without complaint.
Despite my take on the much-argued subject of canine intelligence, I nonetheless remain intrigued by what Ollie would say in response to apparently mundane and everyday events. When he nudges me at treat-time, how does his body clock tell him it is midday, even when the clocks have gone back? Is the nudge even his way of asking for the treat, or it is just something he does from instinct and repetition? Perhaps he is seeking reassurance, as he has been ignored whilst I have been busy at the keyboard. When the car stops suddenly, and he looks up from his spot at the back, is he wondering why, or just thinking we have arrived? After I have been out the house for as little as five minutes, or for as long as three hours, his greeting is exactly the same. Does he have any real sense of time, I wonder?
Of course, he can recognise frequently repeated words. ‘Toys’, ‘Mum’, ‘Car’, ‘Treat’, any of these will get a response. He knows that ‘A guest’ is a caller, but not that it could mean anyone from the postman, to one of Julie’s children. He knows his name too, and whether something belongs to him, as in ‘Ollie’s biscuit’. He can detect the sound of my car, and differentiate that from Julie’s car, and will always identify the sound of a familiar voice, heard outside. I love having him of course, but steadfastly refuse to attribute a single human comparison to any of his actions or moderate examples of intelligence. He is a dog, after all.
But I do wish that he could talk.
I wish he could tell me when he feels ill, other than by lowering his tail. That might also mean that he is fed up, too hot, or has waited too long for his dinner. I wish that he could explain why he prefers some toys to others, and why he always brings one to show me, whenever I come home. I would dearly love to know why he almost never barks or growls, but takes offence at a random selection of people encountered on our walks. When he has chased a deer, or rabbit, I wish that he could turn to me afterwards, and say, “Nearly got that one”. And after three hours out walking, I often hope that he will discover the power of speech, turn to me and say, “Can we go home now?” If he doesn’t want any food, I would really like it if he could come over and say, “No dinner for me tonight, thanks. I’m not very hungry”.
But he never will, and this is all just fantasy on my part of course.
Most of all, I am just pleased that he is a happy dog. I will settle for no conversation for that.
For those of you who like this photo, I would like to give the credit for taking it to my good friend, Antony Kyriacou.
Here is a link to his website. http://antonykyriacou.photodeck.com/