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General Articles

Animal Magic: Sigmund, my dog is sad

A friend recently engaged the services of an animal behaviourist. When he received the invoice, said friend took to his bed, called his own therapist, then his bank manager.

The whole animal-owning/interaction process has always intrigued. With the exception of rescue animals and the kindly people who opt to give comfort to an abandoned, the broader process of animal ownership is a window onto our desperate selves. Whilst a third of the world struggles daily with poverty and hunger, the remainder buy tuxedos for their dogs.

Recent media coverage has confirmed what every dog-owner already knew - they can read facial expressions. Scientific verification that your dog possess more emotional intelligence than your children is ironically uplifting. Good to know that Fido will alert the emergency services when you fall down the stairs, as your offspring fail to hear your screams over their Face-Tube Twitterings.

I enjoyed the canine antics of yesteryear. One which still raises a chuckle is the wee Scotty dog who hated every living thing save for the patriarch of the house - who also loathed humanity, thank goodness they found each other. When pooch passed over, Papa went into such a deep depression that he was retired early from his job,  Another recall surrounds a rather amazing hound-feat of agility. Neighbours deposited their pet at a reputable kennels, some 20 miles distance, ahead of the family holiday. By the time they returned home, Mr Dog was on the doorstep, having enjoyed the challenge enormously, eagerly anticipating the next test. He presumed it was training preparation for the Dog Olympics, and that a big bone would be the reward. It speaks volumes as to the light density of traffic in London some 30 years ago? These days, poor old Rex would have met his Maker at the first speed bump.

As with all things pet-wise, we rarely - apart from Mary Midgley - perceive the world as animals do, wild or domesticated. The agenda for animals rights is developing - chimps have gained recognition as higher-order beings. As the world resources create competition between species, a familiar pattern of protectionist activity emerges. But there is more we do not know than do; Do cats get headaches? Can guinea pigs giggle? When dogs watch TV with us, do they recall what occurred in episode 1 of a 6-part series? (me, neither), can rabbits detect when unwelcome visitors drop arrive?  Actually - I think I can answer that one. Colleagues hosted an informal working lunch, believing a new environment would help ‘team-bonding and productivity’. How right they were, when their newish kittens -  recently been allowed outside for the first time - scampered indoors, made a beeline for the empty fire-place and promptly defaecated in the grate. Little was achieved that day, but bond we did indeed, but not in way as was intended.  It’s hard to gain credibility as a manager when your pets are more endearing than you are.

So, we continue to share our  personal space with the lost-and-found, the chosen ones and the mutual curiosity that goes with it. It maybe wise that we do not know too much about their views and thoughts of us. If, however, they could verbalise just one question, it would probably be on the topic of how we wash our private parts. I think that worries them quite a lot.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015    Section: General Articles    Author: Julia Moore
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