Dogs Are Not People: They’re Smarter and More Communicative

A Gift of Dominion

Yesterday I skimmed a blog post by Jonathan Turley, a Georgetown law prof who is often on Olbermann talking about Constitutional issues such as our constant surveillance state erosion of civil liberties (“How the National Defense Authorization Act threatens civil liberties“) .  He’s good, Turley.  He makes moral arguments but always allows that the law is operated “extra-morally” (it can be immoral, amoral, moral, depending on one’s interpretation–voila, judges!) and so he will often disagree with something but say how the law in a case is strongly in favor of what he opposes.  He respects the institution, clearly, and disparages the immorality of bad faith that operates everywhere within it.

That was a kind of long way to say, I like him, as all that is relevant really to why I’m here now.  This is the blog post that I skimmed, it’s short: “Gladiator Maximus: Anchor Bitten In The Face By Rescued Dog.”  This is how it opens:

Television anchor, Kyle Dyer, was bitten in the face by a 85-pound Argentine mastiff named Gladiator Maximus during an interview this week. The dog was the scene of a heroic rescue in icy waters after falling into the water while chasing a coyote. Firefighter Tyler Sugaski who rescued the dog is shown here with the owner 39-year-old Michael Robinson. The video is below.

It goes on to discuss Robinson’s liability (it’s a law blog after all) and he tries to “argue” how a case may be decided based on what facts he knows.  Again, it’s short and interesting.  He posts the video as well.

I sent the Turley post to my friend Dredd Dith who was kind enough to share with me a really detailed response (“The Perfect Storm“) to the incident by an Animal Behaviorist in Colorado named Kari Bastyr who blogs about her work at Wag & Train.  And yes, dog businesses do have cute names as a rule.  A friend of ours owns and operates Wagamuffin.  See?  Anyway, Bastyr gives further detail regarding the situation and offers a wider context for how so many of us are inattentive to a life and mind not human and not our own.  I’ve excerpted extensively and freely.

By now, you have probably seen the footage of the dog rescued from the reservoir on Tuesday. It was a very happy ending for an unfortunate circumstance caused by the dog’s owner. Max, a Dogo Argentino (Argentine Mastiff), was probably out for an afternoon walk and Michael Robinson, Max’s owner let him off leash *hoping* he would stay close. …This entire scenario…could have been entirely prevented had Max’s owner kept him on the leash, and not *hoped* he would listen. In my opinion, this was an extremely stupid and narcissistic decision on Michael’s part. Max should never have been off leash, especially since he wasn’t up to date on his vaccinations. On a side note, a dog actually did drown on Wednesday (the day after Max’s rescue) because another foolish owner let their dog off leash without a 100% solidly trained recall, with distractions. Aren’t we supposed to keep our dogs from harm and be their advocate and voice? When I saw the footage I was so angry. And, later I found out, instead of taking Max directly to the vet, Michael brought Max home and invited camera crews inside to film him. How does this make sense?…

People love their animals and don’t know that dog body language is very important. So many kids and people are bitten by people who just don’t understand because they love dogs SO much they can’t help but treat them like little kids in fuzzy coats. People hug and kiss dogs all the time. This is how bites happen…

Aggression, behavior, and bites do not happen out of the blue. They are context- specific and only happen when the context is right. Things build and build and then BOOM. All the while, the dog is trying to tell us “I’m not a threat” “I’m scared and I don’t want you to come any closer” “I’m about to bite you!” …People just don’t understand that dogs don’t want to bite, but they don’t have a choice because we constantly set them up to fail. And then, when they are aggressive we correct them for it, only to increase the likelihood of the dog being aggressive again. Makes absolutely NO sense…

This occurs every day, multiple times a day in homes across the world. I get calls for help daily from parents whose dog bit their child because the child was chasing down the dog and trying to hug her. Or, the person who got bit because they were trying to be ‘dominant’ and Alpha Roll the dog, sending the dog into a defensive outrage trying to protect himself. It is ALL preventable if people would just stop, look, and listen to what their dogs are saying. But people are know-it-alls and continue to set their dog’s up to fail.

And that is why I am writing about this. This entire ordeal must be used as an educational opportunity going forward. People MUST learn that dogs are trying to warn us when they are feeling uncomfortable, but in our hurried ways, with our benevolent attitudes, and narcissist feelings, we don’t even pay attention.

There is a lot more to learn at Kari’s site so go there and be edified.

I have never once not respected a dog AS a dog…well, our family did have a crazy dachshund that I loved despite his overwhelming nuttiness and emanating odor of cat poop (abundant on the farm and a taste treat!), but I doubt I respected him.  And I never blame a dog for a bite.  That is to say, as Kari says, it’s part of a natural progression of communication.  We really need more “people training” than dog training. Kari asks, Why are people so stupid?  Short answser: because we are are.  To protect the animals you share a life with you must constantly train the humans around them and be vigilant with them in the world as dominated by humans and so by stupidity.  I suppose I could call this a species fault and try to respect stupidity in the same way I respect the dog’s bite.  Maybe that’s the best course.

We live in a college town and living so close to campus we get to meet lots of boys and girls who, at this massively “me-centric” time of life, decide to be dog-owners.  And, as you can imagine, though you may not need to having actually embodied this, this stage of life does not lend one’s mind to attentiveness.  On the corner of our block there is a young woman who has recently brought home a giant dog, I’d guess mastiff of some kind from his head.  The house (a rental she likely shares with 4 or 5 others) is right on the corner of two busy streets and has no fence.  Abe, Alice (our family lab-mixes, rescued siblings) and I walked by the other day and I didn’t scan ahead as I should have (again, my responsibility); we turned the corner and were confronted by this dog lunging at us and barking.  The woman was there holding onto his leash for dear life.  The house is on an incline and the yard is up off the sidewalk and “walled” to a height of about 3 feet.  The dog pulled her down the yard (postage stamp sized) and she only really held onto him by getting her feet against that wall and leaning back on her butt and probably because we crossed the road immediately, removing his “problem.”  He does seem to already have some territorial barriers in place.  One other time he got away from her and came after us into the street but cars were in motion and he got distracted and turned back. Needless to say I have not gone by that house again!

In her post Bastr uses another appropriate term, narcissistic. We often think of this as simply just a kind of “me first” attitude, and it is to some degree, but more so, and this is where the genetic stupidity might come in, it is simply an inability to be outside the self at all–Narcissus is not captured by his own beauty, that is, he doesn’t “love” himself for any qualities–he is captured by ONLY having self-reflection in his mind. This is, to my thinking, the basis of all human ignorance, stupidity, boorishness, and lack of empathy.

A further example, also from Turley’s blog, and I only chose it because it was immediately prior and apt, of this clear human cognitive blindness (?), “Court Clerk Caught Watching Porn As Rape Victim Testifies At Trial.”

…a court clerk in London, has pleaded guilty to watching pornography during a rape trial in court, including while the victim testified on her sexual assault….[he] viewed about 30 images during the two days and later said that he watched a great deal of porn and was only finding sites to watch later at home. He said that it helped with boredom in the job.

The man simply does not understand why this is wrong.  But his boredom with work is a very important clue to much of our cultural loss of empathy.  We no longer have any real physical common bonds that create empathy in us for others; rather all of our tech-entertainment-production advances create the opposite type of being.  Narrow and thoughtless in the extreme.

Why would this kind of human think that a dog should be understood as a physical, sentient being in and of itself; isn’t it just another example of some other creature we mostly think about in representational terms as an anthropomorphized “entertainment” object?

Stupid gets more stupid in this type of world.  We are removing our minds from the actual and have been doing so for decades.

But we sure can see far out into space and deep into the basic structure of life!  We’re so cool!

Photo Credit: ktylerconk

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