Canine Connection

Posted on 24 April 2011

Since adopting our dog, Jolie, last fall, Damien and I have had a thrilling time getting to know her better, both as an individual and as one of the canine kind.  I grew up with dogs and so I met Jolie with a certain level of experience.  However, in working from home I have had an unusually high exposure to this particular dog.  She’s also our first dog of our very own, which means we’ve been her primary trainers and care takers since she came to us from North Carolina.


Among other things, I have been impressed with Jolie’s ability to read human emotions.  Though not always entirely accurate, her emotional reaction to human feelings is perceptive, reliable and even magical, at times.  Damien and I go about our lives as usual, making the same noises, motions and exclamations in response to this or that and to each other; but on a whole different level is Jolie, listening and responding to our universe of actions in her own way—regardless of our acknowledgement.

I wanted to share a few of these scenarios, just for fun, and perhaps in the process come to understand this strange little animal a little better.  The following are a list of: 1) actions by the owner; 2) reactions from the dog; and 3) my own guess at what might be going through the dog’s mind.

OWNER: Laughs or sings happily in response to something positive.  Claps.  Jumps out of seat.

DOG: Gets up, yawns noisily.  Stretches with tail flopping back and forth; trots happily over with ears perked and tail wagging.

DOG BRAIN: “Ooh, ooh!  Fun!  Yay!  What’s next?  Where to?”

OWNER: Talks animatedly on the phone, usually after a period of peace and quiet.

DOG: Gets up, stretches, and locates the loudest squeaky toy she can find.  Gallops around the room with it pouncing, squeaking, jumping, and squeaking some more, very excitedly.

DOG BRAIN: “Yay!  Time to make noise!  Yes!  Make noise make noise make noise!”

OWNERS: Engage in talking happily, laughing or sitting on couch together.  Hug.  Work on something together in the same room (like dying Easter eggs).

DOG: Show up as soon as the team activity begins and linger around suggestively, tail down, eyes alert.  Squeezes between legs of owners, puts head on owners’ legs, rests against owners’ legs.

DOG BRAIN: “Helloooo!?  I’m here, too.  Yes, me!  Just a friendly reminder.  Yup—still here.  Still cuddly.”

OWNER: Speaks heatedly or argues, with passion or anger.

DOG: Appears to shrink an inch or two in size; wags tail furiously with ears back against her head.  Approaches hesitantly, with head down slightly and eyes half closed.

DOG BRAIN: “Sorry sorry, so sorry—I didn’t do it!  I swear.  I’m a good dog.  Aren’t I cute?”

OWNER: Exclaims or shouts in frustration at a magazine article, kitchen accident, or other negative surprise.

DOG: Trots in wagging her tail, ears back and eyes alert.  Observes from a distance, tail down, before approaching (if it’s safe) with tail still wagging slowly.

DOG BRAIN: “What was that?  Come on, it’s okay.  Pats for the nice dog?”

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