Friday, 2 September 2016

On the subject of animals...

Did you see that picture of the cocker spaniel lying beside his master's coffin after the earthquake in Italy? Much like the story of Greyfriars Bobby.  I admit to having some doubts about the veracity of that story but I do accept that animals - well, dogs in particular - do have emotions although maybe not quite as we know them. We are too prone to anthropomorphise animals and describe dogs as loyal, affectionate or loving.

I'm not sure that 'loving' is quite what Fern feels or shows towards my daughter, who is possibly one of the dog's most favourite people, but there is something there.  There was a particular example a few years ago when the OB and I, with Fern, stayed with my daughter for a few days.  The three of us took the dog for a walk in the local park (an enormous place, almost the size of a town!). On the way back, I walked in front with fern on the lead, the OB and daughter were a few paces behind (showing the proper respect!). Fern behaved abysmally - until my daughter took the lead, after which she was angelic! When my daughter stays with us, Fern watches the stairs anxiously, waiting for her to come down, or sits looking out of the window as D goes to her car, willing her to come back.

Fern also feels a sort of pride. This is seen when, as happens quite often, she finds a tennis ball in the park. As she carries it off, her head goes up and her tail wags almost excessively.

One of Fern's predecessors (not biologically but in our household) was a large, black dog - a flat-coated retriever - called Rags. He exhibited a tremendous empathy with humans. In particular, if a young girl from up the road came into the house feeling upset or anxious (the OB took her and her sister to school each day after their mother had gone to work), Rags would cuddle up to her until she felt better.

Yes, there is something there - love, affection, loyalty, call it what you will.  It exists.