January 28, 2009

What is it boy?

Dogs are funny.

They seem to be pretty malleable, capable of adapting to new situations, yet their behavior can be drastically affected by a past experience (both good and bad). Well this is true of humans too, but we aren't nearly as adaptable.

We adopted our pooch when she was about five. From what we know, she grew up in farming country and was used to roaming freely. She was adopted out for a day to other folks who crated her, then locked her in a room while they were at work. She freaked and destroyed some things trying to get out. As I have mentioned previously, their stupidity was our gain.

After a weekend of easing any separation anxiety, it seemed she felt right at home in her new digs. Imagine a five year old child (or even an adult) being uprooted and passed around city to city, house to house and then being happy after a weekend. Yes we are completely different species, but dogs are fairly nuanced animals, and their bond with humans is strong. I can't imagine giving up our wonder dog, then having her be happy in a new home after only a weekend. I as the (slightly) more advanced human would be crushed for a long time.

I wonder what her life was like for her first five years. How much does she remember? Did she adapt so quickly to us because she doesn't have long term memory? Not likely. Dogs can be trained so they can retain knowledge and behavior. And it seems pretty obvious that they equate current situations and stimulation with past experiences.

Like this morning. We are watching my parents dog for a bit. My parents adopted their eight year old dog last year, and outside of his penchant for running away, he is nice big lump of a dog. I was checking out my friend's blog this morning and he had posted a video of his little girl cooing and gah-gahing. When I played it, the dogs came running. My parent's dog put his face as close as possible to my laptop and he was clearly excited. Toward the end he put his paws up on the dining room table trying to get even closer.

His reaction was beyond mere curiosity at a new sound. I wonder if there was a newborn in his previous household. Did they grow up together. Was he given up for adoption shortly after the baby arrived? What was his previous life like and why did he end up in the shelter.

I sometimes wish I could know all that goes on in my dogs head. Would I find zen-like acceptance of living in the moment and being happy simply because if feels good, or no complex thought or memory like a goldfish swimming back and forth in a tiny bowl. Probably better I don't know. I prefer to think of her as 'wisely simple'. But I do wish she could tell me stories about her childhood and life on the farm.


matt said...

So funny that you mention that. Little Annie has been around a number of dogs in the past few months (especially during our visit to the NW) and almost without exception, every time she cried, the nearest dog would rush over to her - seemingly concerned. It also seemed like the bigger the dog, the more concern they showed. Maybe dogs are just hardwired to protect the little people . . .

Holly said...

Adorable! It's so cool how expressive they are without words, but I often wish the same thing ( that we could read his mind ) with the Beez. I think it's why we find it so amusing to narrate what we think they're saying in silly voices. We do this with the little pie too... shameless.