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RICH IN THOUGHT Thinking Like A Dog
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Despite many women's claims that the male gender of the human race is comparative to the canine species, I don't claim to have any great insight to the innermost thinking of dogs - just my observations and beliefs.

Since Ivan Pavlov's first experiments showing that sounds or sights can trigger a dog's thoughts, affecting it physiologically, this conditioning response theory has been studied by nearly all psychology students and also has me examining the responses of the two beloved dogs that occupy my home.

I often wonder what goes through the minds of Dante, my Bernese mountain dog, and Daisy, my 10-year-old golden retriever when they are "triggered" by a brain-stimulating factor.

Most dog owners have seen the reaction of their canine pets when a doorbell sounds on TV making them think it's the real thing. The scampering and barking follows as they go to the location in their mind (front door) where this phantom visitor would be.

To them, the sound equates to "someone that does not know me is at that area, otherwise they would just walk in." It may go so far as, "I have to bark to show my people that I am a protector."

Want to really see them perk up and come running at Villa Paloma, just unwrap a piece of sliced cheese. The crackle of the cellophane wrapper - or any wrapper now for that matter due to their "conditioning" - is a guarantee for doggie chaos.

The same type of reaction goes for getting out the leash.

Both of mine get a bolt of energy and uncontrolled exuberance as they dance around with escaping whimpers and yelps of excitement. To aggravate matters, I may shake the leash allowing the clip to rattle on the tile floor, tantalizing them with the wait as 200 pounds of fur and paws leap and bounce. They know what's coming.

Sometimes that conditioning can occur at the most bizarre moments.

One time my wife and I were packing for a trip and I got a carry-on bag with a shoulder strap out of the closet. Unbeknownst to me the strap wasn't secured on one side and dragged as I went upstairs to pack. Dante and Daisy were full of energy following me and I had the initial thought that they were Mensa candidates in the doggie world recognizing that luggage meant "trip."

Nope. It took me a minute to realize that the clip from the strap was clacking along the floor. In their little minds they saw a long thing (leash) with the other thing (clip) that connects to their collars.

For Dante and Daisy, a walk is their thing. To be so amazed at the wonders and discoveries of the outside world. To them it's the simple things, a car ride, a romp in the park, to be petted or just given a treat.

I seriously doubt when we're out on a walk and I pull Dante's leash as he goes to sniff at something off the path, he's thinking, "Hey, old man, who's walk is this anyway?"

He's just happy to be out with seeing the world.

A car trip even to the vet is just another excursion to Dante where the wind gets to blow in his face. There are no resentments or fears hampering him with thoughts of, "Wait a minute. One of the last times we went in this direction I got the big snip."

No, for a dog's thinking is "an attitude of gratitude."

They're always thrilled when you walk through the door. Another cup of the same kibble you've been giving them day-after-day for years is still their favorite thing. Scratch them behind the ears and their reaction tells you you're the best who's ever done it. A nap, joy. If they get to take that nap on the people bed, they're in Heaven.

That's the difference in thoughts between the cats and dogs in my house. Dante and Daisy will think, "I'm being fed, played with, given attention, and loved, my people must be God."

My wife's cats (notice, no claim of ownership here) on the other hand are thinking, "They do all this for me? I must be God."

Because their lives are shorter than ours, I believe that dogs want to spend every waking moment with us. Dante and Daisy might not know what I'm saying, but I'm sure they appreciate me talking to them. (Even with that deep silly voice calling them my big sweeties.)

To think like a dog may not be so much a bad thing. We would focus our energy and thoughts with our primary consciousness on others and the enjoyment of what's happening around us, losing our subconscious sense of self and "what's in it for me" feelings.

I believe there's knowledge to be found if we pattern some of our basic thoughts and behaviors after these astonishing animals. After all, who's ever heard of a dog with a stress ulcer?

Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at 847-3021.