Dear Porky and Buddy,
Yesterday I was talking to my brother about my new adopted dog, Enola, a black lab mix and I told him that she always appears to be smiling and that I thought she was very happy in her new home.
You have to know that my brother is sort of a scientific know it all and he started to lecture me about anthropomorphism and how dogs don’t feel human emotions like happiness, blah, blah, blah.
Is he right? What do we know about dogs’ emotions?
We are sorry about your brother. It sounds like he probably needs a cat…
But on the subject of the emotional life of dogs, know that there is excellent research going on and great books out there that explain, in (scientific) detail, developing knowledge about the inner life of dogs, so to speak.
Two that we would recommend are “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know” by Alexandra Horowitz and “For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend” by Patricia McConnell.
That said, let’s not worry so much about the science and have a (mercifully brief) discussion about what might be considered happiness for a dog.
Call it what you want, Enola seems to be in a good situation and we suspect that she is content. Content dogs sleep for about eight to 10 hours per day, mostly at night.
They wake up early and set out in search of breakfast. They appear bright, alert, active and solicit attention from their owners.
They also interact positively with other animals in multi-pet homes. They enjoy walks, play and social activities. They enjoy learning new things.
They may spend time chewing on a toy, exploring in the yard, or socializing with other dogs or people. Their actions and interactions are engaged in with interest and joy. (You can argue all you want about “happiness” in dogs, but there is no question at all in our opinion that they feel joy.)
Their eyes are bright, ears are swiveling and tails are high. They seek out and stay close to their human caregivers for company.
Does that sound like Enola? Great! Is there a difference between contentedness and happiness? Maybe, but who cares?
There are unhappy dogs out there, and we will talk about that next week. But this week, we just want to bask in the glow of Enola’s good fortune and yours.
Speaking of happiness and good fortune, the Oliver Paine Nurseries Spring Plant Fundraiser will take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 17 and 18 at the nursery at 125 South Granby Road, Granby.
A total of 15 percent of the amount of your plant purchases will be donated to the Humane Society, but you need the special flyer to take with you.
You can download it at oswegohumane.org.
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.
Our office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego. Phone is 207-1070. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is at oswegohumane.org.