Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Those 3 Small Words

The most recent edition of APDT Chronicle includes an article written by renowned behaviorist and author Patricia McConnell, PhD. The article, entitled The Emotional Life of You and Your Dog: A Glass Half Empty or a Glass Half Full?, covers a highly debatable subject within the science world: do dogs have feelings and what are they?

The feelings discusses within the article are fear, anger, happiness, seeking and love. I've chosen to add my two cents to the latter.

Do dogs love? I know as a dog owner, I would sure love to know that my dogs love me back. I know that my own love for them goes deeper than my heart can contain. It literally aches when I imagine how much I care for them. For humans, love is huge. We love to be loved and love to love. But is that so for our furry companions?

It’s argued that love has no position in a dog's day to day survival – they don’t need love to procreate, that’s mechanical. What kind of survival tactic is loving? If anything, we humans can identify with love being more painful than it is life-saving.

I argue that dogs DO love using an example from my own life.

I have a very set routine when I get ready in the morning. Every morning, B joins me in the bathroom on her pillow I’ve designated as her resting spot while I “put my face on.” She follows me from the kitchen to the bathroom and curls up on her pillow in the corner and drifts off to puppy sleep. Anytime I leave the room, she wakes up and if I’m gone too long, she comes to find me. Keep in mind, she gets nothing from me as far as food/treats. Most mornings, sad to say, I’m too much in a hurry to give her more than a rub on the ears. But she sticks with me still. I like to believe that it’s because being around me is rewarding enough. Just being in the same room together gives her great comfort…the kind of comfort that leads to deep, jerky, chasing-whitetailed-deer dreams. Isn’t this a form of love? Wanting to be with someone...just because it feels good? I know this isn’t a strong argument for such a controversial debate. But for me, it makes my heart happy.

Dogs are social animals. They would rather be with someone they like than no one at all. So, naturally, when you spend time with someone you begin to form a relationship. If I was someone B didn’t particularly care for, I don’t see it worth her time to get up from her cozy spot on the bed with the rest of the family. She chooses to spend her mornings with me before I leave. She then moves to her chair in the living room and waits there until I return (moving through the house looking for mischief at steady intervals throughout the day).

I like to think that this is because I’m important to her. And not just because I’m the provider of her resources, but because she truly loves me.

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