Thursday, April 16, 2009

Does Bo Know Diddley?

A recent New York Times article explores the idea of whether Bo, the Obama family's adorable new dog, knows that he is the most famous pooch on earth. The question of whether dogs are conscious of themselves in the "where do I fit in in the universe sense" has vexed many a dog lover for centuries.

We are all guilty of anthropomorphizing our furry friends at some point in the relationship -- and we are not merely referring to dressing them up in mini-human clothes or pushing them around in strollers.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

But we are talking about assigning thoughts, feelings and motivations to their behavior based on how we experience the world. For example, we say "my dog went to the bathroom in the house on purpose" or "Fido stole my slipper because I annoyed him."

In actuality, our pals may be at least in part just running on instinct. Did some ancient wolf realize that those erect hairy guys named "Jondular" running around in deer skins would trade leftovers and shelter for help with hunting and protection? Or did one of those early humans domesticate dogs simply to carry his slippers to the next cave?

In the end, what a dog "thinks" about his situation probably doesn't matter. What truly matters is whether your dog is happy. And that means he's well fed, has a roof over his head, receives proper care, is loved and feels like part of the pack--your family.

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