Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"What Dogs Think"

So I’m sitting in the Waiting Area at a vet’s office, where I have accompanied my daughter, who has made an appointment for her cat, who has a cough. This is the same vet’s office where we once brought another cat, who didn’t get to go home, a trauma of such magnitude, it is impossible for me to even think about having another pet.

I need a distraction, to take my mind off of “Franky”, the cat who didn’t get to go home. (Though, to believers of a certain persuasion, she may have gotten to go Home.) I find that distraction in a dog waiting to see the vet, a beautiful black and white I-don’t-know-what, but I have the feeling its ancestors rounded things up.

The dog has caught my attention, because, when it was time for it to be taken “in the back”, it insistently did not want to go.

(Note: I mean no disrespect by calling the dog “it.” I did not look underneath to determine its gender, and if I had, I would very likely have remained in the dark.)

The dog’s unwillingness to cooperate left the vet’s assistant no alternative but to drag it to the back. The dog resisted by digging in its nails, which everyone sitting there could detect scraping gratingly along the Waiting Area’s uncarpeted floor. In the cartoon version, sparks would have been flying off of the concrete.

You identify with the dog; or at least, I do. Its behavior is not dissimilar to the behavior I display when my dentist invites me into The Room With The Chair.

I felt a bonding empathy. But there was something else going on as well. An awareness I had never experienced before. Or at least never with such blinding clarity.

This dog remembers.

If it didn’t, it would have padded obliviously into the back, like, “I’m here; now, I’m going there.” No trepidation. No concern. The reason?

No memory.

This was clearly not the case here. This dog remembered what was in store for it in the back. And it insistently wanted no part of it.

This gets me thinking. If dogs can remember – which this one certainly could or why the big fuss? – what else is going on in their minds that we don’t know about?

I’m not a dog. I don’t know what they think. And I’m reluctant to Disney my human impressions onto their doggified brains. It’s possible dogs don’t think anything, though the door to that unlikelihood was rapidly closing. It now seemed likely that dogs did at least have the capacity to think certain things.

I wondered if, perhaps, dogs think things like this:

“How can anyone get around on two legs?”

“What if one ‘dog year’ isn’t seven ‘human years’, but just one?”

“This stuff in a tin they’re feeding me, have they ever tasted it themselves?”

“My tongue is too big.”

“I bark; therefore, I am.”

“Sometimes I feel this overpowering impulse to get sheep to line up.”

“Chasing cars is ridiculo…ooh, there goes a car!!!”

“I wag my tail in time to a tune whose name remains annoyingly on the tip of my oversized tongue.”

“I don’t know a single dog who enjoys wearing a sweater.”

“Nobody likes drinking out of the toilet. We do it, because it’s the only water we can reach.”

“One day I had testicles; the next day I didn’t.”

“I could have the solution to world hunger, but do you think they’d listen to a dog? Do I have the solution to world hunger? I don’t even think about it. Why bother?”

And finally, the thought I see most clearly in this dog’s pleading eyes, as it’s hauled off to an appointment with something altogether unpleasant:

“Don’t just stare at me, you idiot. Help me!”


PG said...

There is no doubt in my mind that our dog is constantly thinking....of ways she can push us around and do her bidding. When she isn't napping (which is most of the time) she stares at us intensely, trying to convey her desires. Sometimes she 'does a Lassie' meaning she indicates, with her head, the direction we should move in to get close to what she wants. She will also start yipping insistently, while we go through a catalogue of possibilites....water? out? cookie? (this usually hits the button).
She no longer barks when someone comes to the door. You can see her 'thinking'
"Why bother? It's never for me."

A. Buck Short said...

Possum’s dead.

Since the subject of faunal morbidity has been briefly introduced, it is my sad duty to inform all that we had a loss in the family overnight. What can you say about a 20 year-old, 27-inch western hognose snake who died? That she lived longer with us than her normally allotted 15-17? That her relatively low length-to-circumference ratio made her seem less serpentine that other species – almost warm-blooded, jejune? That, as snakes go, she was, dare we say it, cute, with that upturned chin and that grin of impetuous youth,
from which she and her kin derived their name? That it made her the good digger she was?

That over two decades, she was hardly any trouble whatsoever, never asked to go out, or barked at strangers? That she was only mildly venomous? That she loved Mozart, the Beatles…and mice? She also had a hell of a cobra impression, a defense mechanism. It was a gift.

All concerned should know Possum died peacefully in her sleep (at least we think so, since she had no way of closing her eyes even under the weight of a coin). At home, surrounded by family and wood chips. We buried her this morning in the side yard, being extremely careful of location, so as not to accidentally exhume the gory skeletal remains of the previously interred Bounce the Bunny, several gerbels and Russian dwarf hamsters, whose names sadly now escape us, or Larry the guinea pig, who succumbed exactly two weeks after a $600 eye tumor removal, when a new gp would have set us back only $9.95. Fortunately the larger pets had all stipulated cremation.

In lieu of flowers, rodents may be sent to the herpetology society of your choice. And now if you’ll excuse, I can finally remove and dispose of the frozen ones disgustingly stored in the freezer door next to the fish fillets all these many years. Requiescat in pace Possum.

growingupartists said...

Earl, you are so good at this. Enjoying your writing more and more everyday.