Several days ago, I heard some know-it-all-cat-man proseltyzing on the chairlift; his point, I surmised through the endless blather, was that dog’s weren’t that smart. After all their human vocabulary was at best twenty words total. A dog-man, I did my best to make it to the top of the hill without contributing… In particular, how I felt about the 5 + billion song birds cats kill a year or that my family cat, Kitty, loved nothing more in this world than to paw a nest into my clean laundry on the floor and pee in luxury. Normally, I’d discover that halfway into the morning mid-class when the smell finally made it from my t-shirt to my sleep deprived teenage brain. It still makes me mad. We’re different, cat lovers and dog lovers. It’s as simple as that, but I’ll save all that for my next blog… Cat People.
Back to the topic… How on earth are we to judge what a dog might or might not be thinking? Can cognition tests with a set of scentless plastic buttons in some sterile office somewhere really determine how bright a pooch is or whether he’s a big talker?
Perhaps a better test of their intelligence might be in the field judging memory. I can’t remember where my phone is, but my Brittany Rocco remembers where every last animal and scent he’s ever encountered is. It’s evident in the way he presents himself wherever I roam. Boom, straight into the thicket where he saw a bunny years ago. Then, it’s a straight shot to where he always sees a blue grouse in strut in the spring. And then, it’s off to the edge of a bluff to check to see if a deer carcass is there… despite that it hasn’t been for almost five years. And so it goes, no matter where we walk, if we’ve been there, he remembers.
Same for roads, make one turn onto dirt, and he’s suddenly ready to stroll. He knows nothing good happens on pavement. Ever. Even after a wildfire left nothing, he returns dependably to the spots where the animals were. Thousands upon thousands of memories, stacked because they mean something to him. The stinky things, the exciting things, the sexy things, the life and the death. I don’t care what the scientists say, my dog Rocco remembers. He’s brilliant. He’s a thinker. Gus is another story; he’s all heart no brain; either that or he’s a late brain bloomer.
It was halfway down the ski run, that I skidded to a stop, chuckling to myself with a thought I had to remember. I love that about the outdoors, you are present and yet your thoughts wander unchecked by phones, emails and digital pollution… to solve your issues or light up your brain some way or another. Maybe that’s not the way it is for everyone. It could be I’m part dog.
The thought that made me smile was specifically focused on that evil cat man’s comments. If it had only occurred to me at the time, I’d like to have said: “Hey Bud, my dog knows twenty words of human and I’m still stuck on woof. It’s roughly attached to Oh boy!, Squirrel! or Yeehaw!“ Woof, that’s my entire knowledge of dog. By my count that makes me 1/20 as bright as my dog, but one-hundred percent smarter than you cat man.
Because, meow, what in the hell is that? Did I tell you about the 5 billion birds dying. God, I love dogs. Woof. Has one word ever said so much?