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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Lassie Moment

This morning, Singer watched from the couch as I debated with Jeff whether or not to leave her in the house instead of the crate before we left for work. It’s time that we allowed her free roam of the house while we’re gone, I think. I argued that we can make sure all food is put away and slippers are behind closed doors. She’s a good dog, she should be granted access to her couch, water bowl, and windows so she can view her backyard. She watched us nervously, and then I gave in. “Come on, Singer,” I called her. She obediently went to the basement and into her crate without coaching.

It’s what I call a “Lassie moment” – when a dog seems to have almost human abilities.

I couldn’t help wondering if she somehow caught the drift of our conversation and decided to end the debate herself by choosing the crate. I’ll never know, but it is tempting to consider her powers of discernment and draw the line between that thought and her willing entry into the crate. Did she “decide” that she would curb the tension between us and just go willingly? How could an animal reason in this sophisticated way? [“My dog is smarter than your honor student” bumper stickers come to mind…] Or was it merely free floating anxiety that helped her to choose the crate, her awareness of its source completely detached from her reality? It’s probably the latter. She might have picked up on a bit of tension between Jeff and I this morning as we debated the issue, then decided to head for the crate as a place of safety. It’s not like we were fighting mad, so the option of her reasoning powers coming into play is not entirely implausible. But if she really understood her options, would she choose the crate over her beloved couch and windows?

I think she knows the word “crate” and she surely heard the word as we discussed the issue. I asked Nate before he left for work what he thought, and he also opted for the crate. I was outnumbered. It’s tempting to think Singer figured out the issue and decided to take the matter into her own paws. Is this just another example of inappropriate anthropomorphizing or legitimate speculation on how much do animals really understand our world?

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