What do dogs really know and understand? Really? What is the truth behind the myths; the TV shows, the movies, the books. Stories about the dog that travels across the nation to get home to his family (Lassie Come Home), floating on rivers, taking trains, jumping creeks or the dog that waits outside the train station as the years pass, rain then snow, then rain again, waiting for his master to come home? (Always by Your Side) What about the photo that plays over and over on Facebook of the dog that lays across his best friend and master’s casket. What do the dogs of the real world really understand?
Does a dog’s mind work linearly or geometrically? In other words, if he is riding in the car facing forward, does he think he is going in a straight line no matter that the car turns left, then right, them moves smoothly around a curve. Or does he see that the car has turned, that it has gone around in a square, returning to the original start, seeing the grid of streets in a three dimensional pattern? If he sees, understands the world linearly, can he really understand that he needs to jump a creek, cross a railroad trestle, or take a plane, going south, then east then south again; adjusting his direction, going ever southeast to get back home?
Spritzer spent 3 years up on our hill in Friburgo. He lived behind a high wall. He had brief glimpses of the world outside as he was taken for walks along dirt trails and on rides down the hill in his favorite car. But did he ever learn or even know through his natural instincts how to get home if lost?
Then we traveled from Friburgo to Rio by car. Coming down out of the mountains on roads that continually curves back on themselves; then a straight-away, a sharp left, sharp right onto the 101, this way and that through the tunnels and into Ipanema. After two weeks walking the streets and pathways of Ipanema, walking along the beach that feels to me like you are going north to south but are really walking east to west; could his dog mind and perceptions of the world, understand these changes. Could he find his way back home?
And then 24 hours in a crate, a crate that was loaded on an airplane in Brasil, Flying across the equator, and off-loaded in Houston Texas. Did his instincts for direction stay intact as he was moved into this new world; one so different than the mountain top and then the big, big city by the sea. Could he have known, understood these changes in his life and where he lived? Could he possibly understand what was happening, let alone why?
Now almost 6 weeks in Houston; walking to the park on a leash, leaving the house going one direction and returning another can he understand how to go to the park alone and return? Riding several times a week to the city dog run, nose out the window catching the smells, bracing his legs around the corners, full of curiosity, each trip seemingly new and interesting; does he really understand the changes, the direction that his life has taken? How much does he remember of his past life and those in it. Really.
What goes on inside his head? It isn’t human thoughts, human instincts, or human logic; what is it? All these questions, I am trying to understand what I can do to make his life better. Last week he was in the little box of a backyard, no room to run like at home behind the high fence, the garage door is pushed upward and like a bullet he charges through the pass door and out onto the street. Trotting happily, tail high, proud, FREE; keeping a block or more in front of his pursuers, then disappearing. Would he know how to get home? Would he head for the dog run? The park? Would he attempt to cross the major roads that edge our little subdivision, would he ever find his way home?
Yes he was returned. He traveled north instead of south from the last place he’d been spotted. Collapsed after 24 hours on the run. I’d like to know that story. I was able to bring him back home. But the questions remains: what if he gets away again? Would he have been better off left in Brasil? Should I find him a home on a farm or ranch where he could run free everyday? What do dogs really understand and what do I really understand about dogs?