Yesterday I was looking at pictures of Franny I have taken over time, and it hit me that this dog has got expressions on her face that exactly mirror mine. Yes, I’m saying it: “HUMAN expressions.” Emotive facial tics, grimaces, facial scrunchies, blank looks, pleased, self-absorbed, bored, listless, happy, thrilled, pissed, raging, disbelieving, confused, contemptuous…emotions run wild.
Now about 20 years ago PEOPLE IN THE KNOW were still saying, with the kind of condescending little burps of laughter that professionals of all types can’t seem to help injecting into their careful, nuanced explanations meant to ease the fevered imaginings of amateurs who get their information from mere personal observation—but I digress–they were still selling us that malarkey that dogs don’t really have emotions, except the kinds informed by biological “fight or flight” mechanisms. Of course, for hundreds, nay, thousands of years people the world over have been observing canine behaviour that certainly did describe feelings being acutely felt, complex feelings like the canine cringe that comes with the unhappy discovery that that Mastodon thigh morsel belonged to Master, exclusively…and then following it, the “Who knew?” look of innocence and, following that, the dejected pose of disgrace and humiliation, followed yet by the deeply depressed lay- down in a corner somewhere not too far from the rest of the meal just in case things start to look up.
But of course, these weren’t true emotions!!
But of course, they were. And are.
So, laying to rest as bunk,finally, an entire scientific edifice ( and don’t you love it when one species does the investigating that then lays out the rules, based on that self-serving investigation, that will determine the fate of countless others? Don’t even get me started) laying all that to rest, as I say, it occured to me the other day, while looking at the Franny pictures, that a new hypothesis about the emotional life of dogs may be due. In short, I am asking the question,” Has the emotional life of dogs evolved even further, in that they are now MIMICKING the human emotions they see all around them every day?”
Because sometime during the last 200 years, as people in the industrialized world actually walked off the farms and into the cities, they left the cows, the goats, the sheep, pigs and chickens behind, just as they had left the undomesticated animals behind thousands of years prior when they left the wild savannahs and forests to enter into a new relationship with the earth that was agriculturally based. And in these cities, eventually even the horses that pulled them around to work, shopping and the theater were gone, and people were left in the unnatural state of being an animal without other animals to relate to.
Or they would have been if they hadn’t taken their dogs (and cats) with them. Over time, these dogs would increasingly leave the barn-cum-garage and enter the human home to interact with people on a scale never seen before, except perhaps in Rome or Egypt or Downton Abbey.
And, as I will explain in my very next post, with pictures as proof! this has had consequences which, along with selective breeding, has put Wiener dogs VERY close to the throne, with abilities to get down with their people and therefore become manipulating canine geniuses!
Next Week: The Wiener, Evolved