While eating my popcorn today Emily, our always exuberant hound dog, sat at my feet and gave me her best sad-eyed stare, surely hoping for a stray kernel or two to find its way onto the rug, and, subsequently, into her mouth.
“Popcorn is not good for dogs,” I whispered. She turned her head this way, then that way, tried to convince me I was wrong by blinking those big grown eyes at me, and offering a cold nose at my knee. To no avail. I was not sharing my popcorn with her.
There were sounds in the background, murmurings and such, that reached my ears as muffled silence. (Can you muffle silence? One wonders…)
“Then, I need to ask him this,” I heard, in vague undertones, still focused on Emily’s eager face – finding myself wondering how much of what I say and do actually means something to her. Or, better yet, how much of what I say and do, doesn’t mean anything to her. Truth is, most of what I say and do means something. That likely doesn’t mean what I want it to mean – her intelligence is high, but she doesn’t really understand English. Not the way you and I do.
“There’s always a chance,” the voice offering commentary went on, in its muffled silent way, “he’ll ask me something I don’t have an answer to.”
I couldn’t rely reply because I was focused on Emily.
Dear Emily, I was thinking, what is going through your brain? I know you want a popcorn kernel, and my continuously saying, “No, no popcorn for you,” is falling on deaf ears. But, are you thinking that if you wait long enough, good things will come to you? Or, are you thinking you can use the Vulcan Mind Meld on me… or, your version of it, which involves that sad stare you won’t turn away? (yes, Chester, seen here with Emily, does the same thing, but his stare is more pitiful – Emily’s is more purposeful)
Are you more interested in figuring out what I’m eating, than in eating it yourself? I think I have, stupidly, shared popcorn with you in the past. It wasn’t this kind of popcorn, however. Do you know that by the way it smells? Your nose is truly outstanding, I know that much. You spend the better part of your day sniffing around at odors I can’t even detect!
Do you think in linear terms, as I do, dear Emily? Is your brain telling you that this delightful smell is popcorn and you had some once and you liked it (how could you not like it if one of your humans was eating it?) and you would really like some more? And, is your brain also saying, “She’ll give in. She always does.”? When I don’t give in, what will you think then?
The world continues to wonder if dogs think. I don’t wonder if dogs think. I know they do. I know they do because I watch my three dogs and I can tell they’re thinking – when they come to my bed in the morning and nudge me with their cold noses (they’re thinking it’s time to get up); when they pull me across the grass at the park because their sensitive noses picked up a smell I am totally unaware of and they must, must, must get to it (they’re curious and I am sure they also identify the odor as belonging to a dog they met once, on our walks…yes, I think they are capable of that); when they realize it’s four o’clock and dinner should be on the way…so they become persistent in their need to go out, come in, go out, come in… so used to the “time to go out” instructions that are often followed by food, when they go out and come in as good dogs do.
Oh yes. Dogs think.
It’s how they think and how they conclude, that I wonder about.
Now that the popcorn is gone… Emily is also. She figured that out pretty fast.