Friday, February 5, 2010

Do Dogs Have Souls? Poignancy Alert!

I get asked this question all the time. And trust me we covered this in vet school in depth.

Our behavior professor asserted that dogs do NOT have souls. He pointed to all kinds of crazy ass stuff.

Like how dogs don't understand the difference between good and bad.

You are kidding me, right? Not only do my dogs know the difference between good and bad, it is their daily goal to get away with as much bad stuff as possible!

His reasoning? If a dog knew something was bad, they wouldn't do it in the first place.

Huh? Molly will ignore a plate of my left overs for hours to wait for that single moment when I have forgotten about the plate and get up to go the bathroom, then swoops on that puppy, grabs whatever she can off the plate then retreats to another room to consume her bounty.

Did she know it was bad? Hell, yeah. And she'd do it again right now if I gave her the tiniest window of opportunity.

Yet this prof would rail on and on about how dogs were soulless an hour a day, five days a week.

But dogs understand being sorry and even apologizing. I mean, that is pretty damn far up the sentience scale for me.

Even last night I accidentally squeezed Chief (2#, 3-legged Chihuahua = biggest baby ever) and he cried. I apologized, he licked my hand then curled up on my tummy.

Had I not apologized? Pouting, turning his back, and general sulking would have ensued for hours until I apologized.

And Princess? She strikes like a cobra at the dogs all the time and occasionally hits me instead. She immediately will kiss and kiss where she bit me and once I forgive her, she races over and yells at the dog she was originally attacking 'see what you made me do to Mommy?'

So contrition, forgiveness, and revenge all in one event.

But what happened yesterday made me think of that prof so long ago.

A good friend's dog, Danny, has suddenly been waking them up in the middle of the night. We all thought it was because of the snow and him holding it too long since he didn't want to get his feet cold.

He got scolded. He got reprimanded. He got put on down stays.

Then yesterday afternoon his sister dog was stricken with fatal cancer.

Dear God, he wasn't waking the family up for himself, but for his sister. He knew, long before any external symptoms appeared that his sister was ill.

He woke the family up, knowing full well he would get corrected for it, yet he did it seven nights in a row. Then when the last trip to the vet happened, he wouldn't leave her side, not until the end.

He was the truest of true friends.

So if I were asked who was more likely to have a soul, Danny or that Professor?

I'd pick Danny every time.

1 comment:

  1. Another BIG vote for Danny! A vote for Molly, Chief, and Princess (vote or be nipped!) as well. When I was a kid, we had a collie (Major) who would sleep on my brother's bed when the family left on errands. He would always be off the bed when we arrived back in the house, but there was a big "dog-sized depression" in my brother's bedspread. He wasn't reprimanded, but he would always look "sad and guilty" when we walked in the door. We'd laugh and say that we wouldn't have known what he did if he hadn't shown us that "guilty" expression. Your professor's naive suggestion that creatures with souls, knowing the difference between right and wrong would choose not to do the wrong, doesn't explain much of our own human behavior either. I prefer to think of compassion as the sign of a soul - Danny would win over your professor on that vote also.