Since dogs can't talk to us, there are many subjects about which we will never know the truth. Of course we can all form opinions on these subjects (informed or otherwise!) and argue about the til we're blue in the face. One of these issues which is certain to have me spluttering, leaving comments and firing off emails signed off as "Outraged of Shropshire", is that of whether dogs love us. According to author Jon Katz they don't. And what's worse they hoodwink us into believing that they do.
Okay, to be fair he makes it clear that dogs are unable to "hoodwink" but he does suggest that they give the appearance of love without the emotion. He also asserts that dogs do no miss us. This I disagree with strongly. While Jon Katz thinks that dogs will be happy as long as somebody is looking after them, I have seen behaviour that would suggest the opposite.
My mother had a wonderful German Shepherd Dog who missed her dreadfully when she was away on vacation. When she went away on holiday, he was left still in his own home, my grandfather was still at home, and Anthony an I moved in to look after both of them. Yet that dog became as sad as is possible. After a few days I had to actually lift him in to the car to take him to the park, where he would plod sadly around before I lifted him back in to come home. One woman watching me heave him into the car asked, "Aaah, is he really old?" He was about six at the time, but his ailment was not one of age.
I began to fear that when Mum came home I would have to inform her that there was something very wrong with the dog, and I did worry whether he was dying. However, the minute she returned he was bounding about in glee, and totally back to himself in every way. If that dog wasn't missing his person, I can't explain his behaviour any other way - can you?
My own dogs show no sign of pining when we are away, although I am told they wake up extra early, and Buddy once destroyed a toy he had had for months and never so much as damaged. That's about the extent of it, and honestly I am glad. It would make parting from them so much worse if I thought I was inflicting suffering on them. As is it my husband has to drive us away as I am crying to much to be safe.
How do you define love? What behaviour could unarguably demonstrate love? Since we'll never be able to talk to a dog and ask him how he feels we'll never truly know, but I am not alone in believing that my dog loves me, and knowing that dogs do have the ability to miss pack members. I am happy for Jon Katz to differ, and it does of course give him the intellectual higher ground - but I am happy in my thought valley, so to speak. Of one thing I can be sure, my dog will never tell me he doesn't love me.