Friday, January 16, 2015

Why My Dog Thinks I'm Stupid

I often think how confusing life must be for my dog. She was plucked from her pack and dropped into a place where everyone spoke another language, the rules were different and she couldn't follow their body language. When they wanted to play they waved toys instead of bowing. There were no wagging tails to help her understand their moods. She lives in a place where she only understands a few words of the language-imagine being on a life long vacation in a totally foreign country.

A lot of times I wonder what she is thinking about different human activities. Sometimes she will look at me with a face that tells me just how strange she really thinks I am. Imagine what watching tv must look like from a dog's perspective-I spend hours staring at a strange box that makes strange noises. I seem to be happy watching the box, but to her it must be very strange.

I leave for 8 hours a day for some place that makes me smell funny (at least according to a dog nose). Twice a day I stand under a stream of water and rub funny smelling stuff all over myself. Sometimes I lay in a tub full of water doing nothing. 

This weekend I headed to my parent's house while DH stayed home to take delivery of some new furniture and do other chores. I have a 4 day weekend and DH has to work so it was the perfect time for a get away. The dog and I left before DH got home from work and she was nuts. She didn't want to get in the car and she spent the first few hours climbing up in my lap and sticking her face in my face (not super helpful when you're driving 75 mph). I finally figured out that she thought I had forgotten DH at home and she was trying to tell me that I had forgotten something. She finally settled down when DH called and I put him on speaker to talk to the dog. When we got to my parent's house she searched all over-apparently looking for him. 

It made me realize how smart she really is and how much she doesn't understand. We can't explain to her that daddy is staying home, but we'll see him on Monday. In her mind everyone should always be together. She is quite convinced that her mommy is just stupid and forgot Daddy at home-and we can't correct that misconception. It made me realize why people always say dogs are starters for children-they share many of the same frustrating characteristics. As a writer I get frustrated when I can't use the tools of my trade to communicate with someone in my life. Even when I was traveling in Europe I could use my knowledge of language (slim as it might be) to detect speech patterns and I could use context clues paired with the few words I knew to pick up on the meaning. I could also read body language to help give me an idea of the direction the conversation was taking. Social norms also help us understand the language of others-when you enter a store and the sales person says something to you you can make the assumption that they are greeting you and offering assistance.

My dog (or a very small child) doesn't have the life experience to figure out what is going on. When I yell at people in traffic (a pretty common occurrence) she jumps up to lick my face and apologize. She can't differentiate my words and realize that I'm not shouting at her, but at the moron going 10 under the speed limit in the fast lane. It's fascinating to realize how much dogs don't understand and that they have a whole language of their own-including body language and social cues. It's fascinating to me to live in such close contact with another species that we can see their society-and it makes me think of aliens (I like to ponder what alien society would be like).

I'm sure there are many reasons my dog (or your dog) thinks I'm (or you) are stupid-what are some of the ones I missed?

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