Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Thursday, March 17, 2011

C: The Meaning of a Dog’s Bark

dog doormat

My niece has two dogs, Ruby and Razzle.  They are both rescued dogs, having been adopted several months apart from the humane society as puppies.  Niece and her husband are a young couple with no children, so R and R are like their kids, cared for diligently and melded into their family.  When niece and husband are home, R and R are in the house with them, much like Chili is with me.

Niece reports a puzzlement about her dogs: when she and husband are watching television and a doorbell rings on the screen, both dogs instantly jump up and rush to the front door, barking raucously and clearly expecting some stranger to appear. 

Now, I know that this is a common occurrence.  My Chili, too, will sometimes respond to the doorbell rings on television.  But here’s thedog at door kicker about Ruby and Razzle:  They were adopted as small puppies from different litters, some months apart.  They have lived their whole lives, save a few first weeks, with niece—who has NEVER had a doorbell. 

No, Ruby and Razzle have never actually experienced a doorbell ringing in the home and a stranger appearing at the door.  The only doorbell ringing they have ever heard has been on television.

What do you think?  Did R and R pick this up from watching TV?  Did they reason that if the TV folks have people appear at the front door when the bell rings, the same could happen at their front door?

Sometimes I think dogs know more than we give them credit for.  I know my own dogs have always become very attuned to patterns in our lives.

When I had horses, my Shelties used to consider it their very serious “job” to accompany me to do the feeding.  They loved the specific duty of feeding time, for Shelties are working dogs and do love to have a job tosheltie_herding_AKC do.   This picture is not my Sheltie, but it’s what mine were bred to do.  I just know they would have relished this kind of work. 

So, come feeding time each day, the Shelties were especially attentive and, when I would move to the door, they would scramble to go with me, beating me to the door and running ahead to the feed barrels.  They would bark and bully my horses each feeding time—keeping the herd in line!  There were a few times when I would get out there and realize that Gus and Scout were in the fenced back yard, having been forgotten by me.  They would see me through the fence and both bark urgently, clearly horrified at the thought of missing out on doing their job. It was so bad that when this happened, I did not have the heart to carry on without them and would trudge back to let them out to join in the work.

During the day when it wasn’t feeding time at all, if I pulled on my muck boots or my barn coat, the Shelties were off like a flash to the barn, reading my signs of barn duty even off hours.  They clearly understood the phrase, “feed the horses,” and would respond to it even when I was addressing another person and not them…eavesdropping, as it were.

003 My current dog, Chili, has a routine: he stays outside during the day while I’m at work except as MIL lets him in at her house.  When I come home each evening, he comes into the house with me and stays through the night.  He has a bed on the floor in my bedroom.

When I watch television, relaxing after work each evening, he naps on the floor by my chair, heading for bed as I do.  I can say, “Well, it’s time for bed,” and off he’ll go to the bedroom even before I move. 

Last Saturday I worked all day at the office and then swung by to spend a couple of hours with my mother.  Mom and I ended up going out for dinner, so I was after eight o’clock getting home (I am such an early bird…this is approaching my bedtime!).

When I got home, I turned the television on, captivated by Tsunami footage.  Next thing I knew, I was being awakened by Chili’s emphatic pushing at my hand.  It was 11:30! (Unheard of for me!).  I had fallen asleep in the chair.  Chili was push, push, pushing at my hand with his nose.

Thinking he was so insistent because he needed to go out, I started to get up, expecting to turn to the right to go the the door, but no, that’s not what he had in mind.  Instead, he headed left toward the bedroom, pausing at the hallway to glance over his shoulder as if to say, “Time for bed, silly.” 

Clearly, Chili needed to hit the hay and wanted me in the bed, too.  When I turned off lights and came to the room, I found him already curled up and headed for la-la land.

And, of course, he has an English vocabulary that exceeds  just “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Bed.”  We have to spell T-R-E-A-T or he runs expectantly to the T-R-E-A-T cabinet (same was true of Scout).  We had a poodle once who eventually learned to actually spell B-A-T-H.  We could neither say nor spell that word if we were intending on bathing him, for he would disappear in  the house somewhere, and it might take an hour to find him.dog cartoon

I know, beyond doubt, that I anthropomorphize about my animals, but I really do believe they have a deeper understanding of things than we sometimes think. 

And that thing about Ruby and Razzle and the television doorbell: well, it’s really got me thinking!  C


Karen said...

I completely agree. I am an early bird too, and if I'm not heading into the bedroom by 9:30, my Bailey dog will sit at my feet as if to say, "come on, are we going to bed?" As soon as I get up from wherever I am, she's trotting toward the bedroom with hope in her eyes.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

We have a little Terrier mix that was our grandson's puppy. Wall-E came to live with us over two years ago and loves my husband like no other dog has ever done. But ...... when Gavin comes for a visit, he totally remembers his first master and stays by his side the entire time. When Gavin and his mom leave he is my husband's dog again.

Happyone :-) said...

I think anyone who has ever had a dog would come to the same conclusion. They are way smarter than we know!!

kath001 said...

I used to have a Jack Russell that would sit and watch me get ready for work every morning. When I put on my earrings, he would get so excited he would spin in circles. He knew that was the last thing I did before leaving for work, and he was about to get to spend the day outside.

They sure entertain us.

Linda said...

Most of us who have shared our lives with a dog (or even the occasional cat) could probably tell stories about their uncanny ability to understand our speech and the implications of our actions and to know our routine so well as to anticipate what we'll do next. That IS curious about Ruby and Razzle, though.

KathyB. said...

I agree with you, our pets, especially dogs, are much more cognizant than we allow , and we are surprised continually by this...wonder why ?

Your niece's dogs know about door bells because they watch T.V. too. :)

Vee said...

I might not have understood this all just a couple of months ago, but now having Molly the Poodle in tow, I recognize a lot of it. Dogs really are smart...and, I hate to say this, much smarter than the cats I've known and loved. A bit needier, too.

RSA Online said...

Dogs are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Cute story about the doorbell, looks like humans aren't the only ones who pick up habits from the TV ;)

Pat - Arkansas said...

Interesting behavior from Ruby and Razzle with no logical explanation. Dogs (and cats) are far more intelligent than we think.

Kitty said...

Anyone who has ever owned a 'clever' dog will agree: dogs DO think, ponder and reason. We are so incredibly lucky to have them in our lives.

At the moment, I am dog-less, and I miss the companionship that only a dog can give, completely different than a human or any other animal. Unconditional love and affection.

I got some sad news the other week and was rather broken-hearted. As I sat on the couch, crying my eyes out, my elder daughter's cat Triskel, who is usually rather aloof with me, awoke from her nap in the sun, jumped up onto the couch and planted herself on my lap. Then she very gently reared up, planted her paws upon my shoulders and began to lick my tears away, purring all the while. Then she curled up on my lap and just sat there. She has never done this before. It was such a kind act of comfort, I was rather blown away. I guess she figured I needed a 'hug' and this was how she gave it to me.

I reckon we ought to give our animal companions more credit. I'm not convinced it's always just routine, like the example of R&R, I believe they DO think!

Hugs and quiches from Kitty

Sandra said...

They really do pick up on signals, both verbal and physical, don't they?

Our Australian shepherd, Akela, LOVED to go to the kennel. So as soon as we got suitcases out and started filling them, she would go sit by the door to the garage, ready to load up in the car to go see her friends at the kennel. One of my many fond memories of her.

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