Good friends are loyal and stick by you no matter what, and that’s true when it comes to man’s best friend. We’ve all read about faithful dogs — from courageous canines who saved their owners’ lives to dedicated dogs who stayed by their loved ones’ sides even after death. There’s a fascinating article in the New York Times by “neuroeconomics” professor Gregory Burns where he describes his latest work studying dogs. After training and scanning the brains of dozens of them, he says he’s left with the inescapable conclusion that “dogs are people, too.” Brain scans show that dogs are as conscious as human children.
It’s evident our pets know when something is a little out of kilter with their humans. Just recently, I spent more than my share of time on the sofa due to illness, and Baylie took her job as nurse, personal assistant, electric blanket and foot warmer very serious. She sensed that I wasn’t feeling well and was content to just lie next to me on the sofa. Not once did she push her toys against me or plop them in my lap in an attempt to get a rise out of me for some playtime.
One incident that really took me by surprise was the night Baylie and Smoki both ended up in the bed with me and without incident between the two! Smoki, weighing in at nine pounds, took her usual position on the right and ninety pound Baylie on the left. That was definitely a first as these two are definitely not snuggle buddies. It was a restless night in which no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get comfortable. It was apparent that Baylie honed in on my pain and would have nothing to do with sleeping in her usual spot in the living room or the guest bedroom. Each time she slowly wandered into the bedroom, I walked her back to the living room. Within a few minutes, I could hear the clicking of her nails on the wood floor as she made her way back to my bedroom, AGAIN. Equally exceptional was that Smoki couldn’t care less that Baylie had invaded her space and was lying just a few inches away. I expected that we would be awakened by Smoki having a hissy fit but to my surprise, it didn’t happen. I would like to believe that a truce was declared between the two of them for the night out of empathy for their human.
During my recovery, Baylie also seemed to take on the responsibility of official “keeper of the cat.” Smoki and Baylie have never been best buds. After all, this was Smoki’s domain long before Baylie took up residence. Smoki has a habit of yowling at the front door if she wants out. If I don’t, immediately, stop what I am doing and let her out, her sense of urgency heightens to yowling the song of her people even louder along with standing up on her hind legs and jiggling the doorknob. It can be quite annoying.
No matter where in the house Baylie is when Smoki lets out that first yowl, she will run to me as if to say, “I think Smoki wants out”. Even if she is snoozing nearby on the sofa, she will sit up and scoot toward me putting her paws over my lap while looking back and forth from me to Smoki. Other times, she will begin pawing at my arm or shoulder. I don’t know if her concern for Smoki’s well-being is genuine or it’s because Smoki’s yowling hurts her ears. However, she does go into the same alert mode when she hears Smoki hacking or sneezing. I have to assure Baylie that everything is fine with Smoki, it’s just what cats do.
Studies indicate that dogs are capable of empathic abilities toward humans. Researchers are working to prove what we dog owners have said for years, dogs really do love us and show compassion and empathy. Scientists at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., have discovered that dogs do in fact experience feelings of love and affection. They remain loyal and devoted to us for so many reasons other than a free meal ticket.