A little bit of dog logic

[Editor’s note this column originally appeared in fall 2010 in the Herald],

I recently received one of those e-mails that combines cute photos of animals with clever tidbits of text.

This one had some great pictures of dogs being dogs accompanied by the usual phrases of wisdom and memorable quotes.

After I was done enjoying the doggie document, something I have pondered before crossed my mind again: We can learn a lot from dogs.

Dogs aren’t bound down by all the mental wrestling we humans go through every day so they’re behavior isn’t affected by a bunch of emotional and intellectual baggage.

They’re not driven to act and react by the things that most motivate their so-called masters, like pride, recognition, revenge and societal status. And they definitely don’t measure their success as a life form by financial and material gain.

Basically, they just don’t have all the hang-ups we have. In turn, dogs are living with a freedom we’ll probably never know.

Allow me to elaborate by expounding on some excerpts from the e-mail while tossing in my two cents here and there (which might be worth less than a penny in this economy).

The e-mail began by offering the idea that the reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue.

As TV detective Adrian Monk might say, spoken words are “a blessing and a curse.”

Our voices and languages offer we humans an incredible method of communicating and allow us to share knowledge and express feelings in ways that would otherwise be impossible. But they can also be a vehicle in the fast lane to trouble and we seem all-too-willing to use our gift of speech to say a lot of negative, often downright mean things to and about each other.

I once heard it said that a dog’s tail never lies.

If dogs could talk, I wonder if they wouldn’t just continue the tail-wagging and choose their words carefully.

The e-mail also presented the notion that a dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.

Never mind the “more” part – can you imagine a world in which people loved others even the same amount that they love themselves? Love of self may not be in a dog’s daily regimen, but I think it’s safe to say it’s at or near the top of mankind’s to-do list.

It seems like we’re often so busy pursuing self-gratification, we don’t want to be bothered taking time to consider our neighbors. We don’t want to hear about pitching in, helping out or working hard; it’s all about entitlement and “what’s in this for me?”

The e-mail went on to share a quote from Andy Rooney (that long-time 60 Minutes guy) who said, “the average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”

Another quote it contained was one from Missouri author and philosopher Mark Twain, who said “if you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”

I guess our memory works better in some areas than others, because many of us in positions of wealth and status can’t seem to remember where we came from. And if someone gives us a gun with which to hunt, we’re liable to use it to rob the giver.

It has been said that you can sometimes look into a dog’s eyes and sense love. Maybe dogs are onto something.

Maybe they don’t give into corruption not because they can’t understand it, but because they can’t stand it.

Maybe they don’t lie not because of an inability to reason, but due to a lack of finding any reason.

Maybe their seemingly automatic loyalty doesn’t stem from obligation, but sensibility. Maybe they act the way they do not because they have to, but because they should.

Maybe – as the old saying goes – it really is a dog’s life.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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