“Imagine lying down with headphones on, with the words of ‘The Little Prince’ floating through your ears. Then the words are repeated in an unknown language, followed by nonsense words. You sit in an MRI machine and in your head your brain lights up in response to the known and the unknown. Oh, and you’re a dog. When neuropathologist Laura Cuaya moved from Mexico to Hungary with her border collie Kun-kun, she was driven to discover if he could detect the language difference. The result: Cuaya’s study of 18 dogs, followed in an fMRI, showed that the dog’s brains did recognize these changes. That makes dogs the first non-primates with spontaneous language skills. So if you’re streaming subtitled shows from other countries, Fido will know.”
— CNN World, January 10
Laura Cuaya’s findings don’t surprise me. We are learning more and more about the abilities of our canine family members and friends from numerous scientific studies, as well as our own observations.
Take Finley for example. We know he likes to run around with the biggest, heaviest sticks around because that gives him a lot of pleasure, partly derived from solid human attention. What Finley can easily carry in his mouth is unbelievable; sometimes it’s even hard for me to pick up one of his super sticks or tree branches and remove it from a forest trail.
Finley taught himself a clever new game: how to hoist a favorite stick up and over his neck and onto his back.
The instructions for “Finley’s Acrobatic Stick Game” are as follows:
1. With your nose trembling, reach for the floor and find the center of a large stick resting perpendicular to your body.
2. With the nose positioned below this point, backwards up, sliding the stick along your muzzle while propelling it so that it lands on the back of your neck, still perpendicular to your body.
3. Slide the stick down your back.
4. Just before it reaches your tail, and here comes the hard part, lower your head and turn your neck sharply to transfer the stick to the nape of your neck before it falls off your tail.
5. Wait a few minutes, drop the stick and repeat.
PS If you don’t like the series, keep practicing!
PPS There are permutations and combinations in this game. Experiment…
On January 7, during our first snowfall of the season, Finley played another game. This time he raced around in the four-and-a-half inches of fresh powder with a new blue tennis ball I had thrown away for him to find. The ball was one of six multicolored tennis balls he received as a gift for his third birthday. The ball cut meters further into the snow. Just before he reached it and with a wild look in his eyes, Finley jumped into the air, hind legs bent, and plunged face first into the fuzzy whiteness. Finley’s nose knows. He picked it up.
However, this game is hardly a Finley invention. Scenes of playful dogs running around and enjoying games in the snow are an age-old tradition.
As Carl Zuckmayer, a German novelist and playwright tells us, “A life without a dog is a mistake.”
I believe it.