(Pictured: Maggie, licking her chops. Who knows what she just ate…)
I used to be amused by people who talked to their dogs, until I became one. (One such person, not a dog.) I don’t know how it happened, either.
One can be an intelligent, educated, professional person and still fall victim to this. You can know in an abstract and general sense that animals have some primitive forms of intelligence and instinct, but they are not reasonable beings like we are. They can form attachments, and even feel emotions, but they don’t have souls. They’re not people, in other words.
And yet, as I became a dog owner by marriage, I transformed into one of those crazy people who regularly talk to their dogs. Now, to be fair, I don’t do the ridiculous baby-talk thing that some folks do.
I’m not completely bonkers–I have my limits. But the following “conversation” actually happened.
While Maggie and I were out for our morning constitutional, as I was waiting for her to pick a spot to “stop and think,” she started sniffing around at a ripped open trash bag that we passed. At that point, I tugged on the leash, and actually said out loud, “No ma’am. We don’t do that.”
We don’t do that. I told my dog that we don’t sniff trash.
Immediately, I had to chuckle at myself. While we may not both do that, one of us certainly might do that, if that one is a dog. No matter how you bathe her and feed her, or let her jump up on the bed, which I swore–SWORE–would never happen, our sweet Maggie is a dog. She does dog-things, like clean herself with her tongue, roll on dead birds, and sniff other animals’ offal.
In other words, I can’t expect my dog to act like a human being. I mean, I love my dog. She’s a dear part of our family. But she is, at her most basic level, an animal. Just because she lives in our house and has a cute name doesn’t mean she’ll start acting like a human being.
Why? Because human beings and dogs are fundamentally different creatures.