Friday, November 1, 2013

Do You See What I See

Morning excursions into the backyard can be distressing for the Munchkins. I lead them into the dreaded wet grass with a treat. They gingerly tiptoe out, carefully nibble the treat, and tiptoe back to the patio, ready to escape into the house without even thinking about going potty.  When this ploy fails, I try luring them out by tossing treats onto the patio. For some reason, this often works better than standing in the grass.

I watch Ivan and Dasa search for the treats I’ve thrown on the patio. I have, if I do say so myself, become much more accurate, much better at lobbing the treats just in front of them. They snuffle and seek. They apparently don’t see treats at such close range; they sniff them out. I can tell by the way they sniff, searching for the treat. Treats at close range must be found. They don’t immediately see them with their eyes, they discover them with their noses. We can tell them where to search, but then their magnificent noses are on the hunt and their eyes follow and confirm.

If I call their names and point, they look at me and then at where I’m pointing. In her book, Inside a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz confirms what many dog lovers know; dogs are much more intuitive than other creatures, even primates. Dogs are more attuned to their people, they look at us for clues, for directions. Dog more than any other creatures are connected to humans by communication, by observation, by attentiveness, by emotion. Dogs reach us on a level that is heartfelt and soul uniting. We communicate heart to heart.

Dogs can tell which humans are sympathetic, which can be helpful, and which cannot. Dogs are very good at reading our expressions, at noticing how attentive we are.

Horowitz also tells of an experiment in which a person with a sandwich is blindfolded and the dog doesn’t stay as close as possible to that person's sandwich, rather he seeks a non-blindfolded person upon whom to employ his begging skills, in hopes that eye contact will increase his chances for success. This dog was obviously not a basenji. I’m pretty certain that, should I wear a blindfold while in possession of a sandwich, that sandwich would disappear into thin air and Ivan and Dasa would look innocent and confused if I questioned them about it. Sandwich? We didn’t see a sandwich.


  1. Lol! So true. And I'm reading the same book right now - fascinating, isn't it?

  2. Great posting! So true that a basenji would grab your sandwich and run!