I hope your holiday traditions include charitable giving. If they do, consider a gift (perhaps on Boxing Day, especially if you missed Giving Tuesday) to one of the K9 good causes I featured in this post:
So, yeah. We have an apparently-innate tendency to anthopomorphize all kinds of things (just for fun, run an image search with the keywords “faces on inanimate objects”). And while Huckleberry Hound, Snoopy, Scooby-Doo, and dozens of other anthropomorphic dogs might be fun ways to poke humor at certain types of human characteristics, but they do nothing to help scientists understand real dogs.
The right chemistry
The human tendency to anthropomorphize may be hard to control for, but blood chemistry is entirely another matter, when we ask, “could it be love?”
Science doesn’t stand still, so there’s updated information to add. That (and the chance to share links to sources) is why I decided to expand on my August post with this series.
If only dogs could talk!
I am certainly not the only person who’s ever wished her dog could talk. They usually manage to express themselves clearly enough to tell us when they’re hungry or want to go out, but I sometimes would swear they’re just as frustrated as we are.
We need a for-real “Dr. Dolittleinterface” of some sort! And it’s possible we may be getting closer to one, but more on that in a bit.
Chaser understood more than 1,000 nouns and could correctly follow verbal commands using different verbs and objects, but I haven’t found any evidence online that she could respond to written symbols. That doesn’t mean, however that a dog can’t do that.
We’re still not quite ready to swear in a K9 officer to testify . . . or are we?
The decision to give my fictional XK9s a vocalizer has its roots in both wish-fulfillment and the potential I see in contemporary adaptive and communication technology. But another inspiration was an overheard comment from a police commander that for well or ill a K9 can’t testify in court. No, we haven’t quite come that far.
No, K9 Azor didn’t have much to say, after all. But we can’t really know what he’d have said, if he’d been trained on a sound board like Stella’s. Imagine a K9 trained on one that said things such as “suspect,” “drugs,” or “explosives.”
Stay tuned. At the rate things are going, real-live XK9s may come sooner than we think!
Have you ever wondered how much your dog knows? Does she really understand your facial expressions and gestures? Is his behavior mostly instinct and the impulse of the moment, or is it rooted in more complex thought processes?
So dogs and humans have had a pretty long time to get used to each other. How much have we “rubbed off on each other”? Some researchers say quite a lot! Neither humans nor dogs would be what we are today, without each other.
Believe it or not, this reflects sophisticated dog cognition. Along with the “pointing tests,” it shows that that dogs have a “theory of mind. That’s the ability to intuit how others see the world and even, to some extent, know what they’re thinking,” according to studies done by Duke University researchers.
Dogs may not be as smart as humans (yet), but their cognitive capabilities run deeper than many people imagine. We’ll look at more aspects of this next week, in my mid-week post.
Till then, I’d be fascinated to learn your thoughts on this post, and read any stories about super-smart dogs you have known, if you’d care to share them in the comments section.
Anyone who’s followed my Facebook Author Page in recent weeks is aware that I’ve been working really hard to finish A Bone to Pick, the second novel in the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy. I went on a writing retreat August 23-26, and made huge strides–but I still haven’t quite finished yet. My goal was to finish by September 1, and I’m so close! But still working.
The new book starts right after What’s Bred in the Boneends. Rex, Shady, and the Pack are back, along with all their friends and allies. But the new book also focuses on Rex’s partner Charlie’s struggles–and the answer to the question, “What is Charlie’s role?”
I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that Charlie received traumatic injuries in a space dock accident, directly followed by the “explosive micro-deconstruction” of the spaceship Izgubil, near the beginning of What’s Bred in the Bone. He was out of the picture, in the hospital, during most of Rex’s adventures in the first book.
Although some reviewers have been puzzled or annoyed that he wasn’t a big factor in the first book, his absence was the catalyst for a lot of Rex’s growth. Rex couldn’t stand back and let Charlie handle things, because Charlie wasn’t there. Rex had to step up and handle things on his own.
But now Charlie’s out of re-gen, awake, and recovering. What is Charlie’s role? Has Rex moved on? Is Charlie now irrelevant? Bringing Charlie’s story into the ongoing mystery has given me a chance to explore issues such as post-traumatic stress, depression, and the healing power of having animals (including sapient ones) and supportive humans in one’s life. These are issues that are not only relevant to Charlie and the story–they’re relevant to many contemporary lives.
Originally conceived as a single book, the Izgubil mysterywon’t fully unfold until the end of the third XK9 “Bones” book, Bone of Contention. But I hope readers will discover a full story arc and an interesting tale in A Bone to Pick. Publication date is scheduled for next May, from Weird Sisters Publishing LLC.
And it underwent lots and lots (and lots and lots) of revisions. As far as the comments from my various critique resources have been going, it apparently continues to improve. I recently sent it off for what I hope is a final round of critiques. Considering the sequel’s now almost finished, I’m hopeful I can offer more substantive updates here soon.
When placed up there next to some of the other massive issues (yesterday I was talking about global food security, for example), the blessing of having a companion animal in one’s home at first doesn’t seem to be in exactly the same league.
It’s a really incomplete picture to leave out cats, horses/donkeys/mules, cattle/oxen/water buffaloes, sheep, goats, swine, chickens and other poultry, rabbits, guinea pigs, camels, and llamas, though. Indeed, without mice, rats, and other animals, our medical history also would have progressed much differently.
But this post is particularly concerned with companion animals–the very dearest pets, the ones we invite into our homes, and often consider to be members of the family. Readers of this series with exceptionally good memories will recall from the latter paragraphs of Monday’s post that I do consider ours to be family members.
I can personally attest to the importance of companion animals for meeting people and staving off loneliness (yes, that’s me in the photo above, with my current dog Jake). The very best way to meet people in our neighborhood is to take the dog out for a walk.
As to staving off loneliness? My dearly-loved Chihuahua-MinPin mix (who stayed right beside me through three successive bouts of pneumonia one horrible winter, and who still is featured in my Facebook profile pic) died the Christmas before both of my kids moved away to college and took all the other resident animals with them. With my Beloved working extremely long hours, if I hadn’t gotten my little Iggy-girl Brenna that following November I think I’d have gone into an even deeper depression from sheer loneliness.
My daughter spent more than a year, living mostly–except for her animals–alone in California, doing hard, undervalued work as a caregiver to an elderly relative. She did make friends, but her animals helped keep her sane. They still do, even as she faces new challenges.
I also can attest to the beneficial effects of companion animals on children. In my family’s case, two Border Collies and a Bernese Mountain Dog-shepherd mix helped my Beloved and me rear our kids, assisted by several cats and an assortment of gerbils and hooded rats (at our church, my daughter became known as the “gerbil-whisperer” for good reason!).
This week’s “making a positive difference” (perhaps I should say a “Pawsitive” difference) Image of Interest is drawn from a video. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while has undoubtedly picked up on my love and respect for service animals of all types, but this week’s image is important to me for several reasons.
First, I have a family member whose certified Emotional Support dog has recently become a crucial part of winning her battle with addiction. Second, this week has been especially tough for several of my friends as a mutual acquaintance has gone into Hospice care for the final stage of her life.
Does your pet have the makings of a good therapy animal? Purebred or rescue, critters with the right temperament can make an incredible difference. I hope you’ll find inspiration in this video, which features the work of several different therapy dogs, including Lanie, who’s featured in our photo above.