“I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls.” – from the movie Elizabeth
Such a great line, so profound, so direct, and I think of it often.
Sometimes, when I am working with a dog that is not straight forward, maybe a bit tricky or tweaky, owners ask me what their dog is thinking about, why are they doing what they are doing.
My response is almost always, “I don’t know”. And I really don’t. I have no idea what a dog is thinking about, just like they have no idea what I am thinking about.
While a dog is looking at the ground, they could be thinking about a rabbit they saw yesterday, the noise in the house they can’t identify, maybe a dog friend they miss and would like to see again, or how they wish you would stop using that stinky perfume! Seriously I don’t know what they are thinking, and no other person does either.
While I am proficient at understanding emotions, emotional ranges, actions, and potential actions, through observing body language, I have no idea what a dog is thinking about. And truth be told, I am really not sure that it is any of my business.
As in this moment, while you are reading my words, you might also be considering or thinking about other things, that your toe nails need clipping, the trash taken out, bills need to be paid, why did that guy smile and say hi to me yesterday, purple is not my color and it looks like crap on me, I need better coffee, and so on. But those are your thoughts, all your own, not known to anyone else. And maybe that’s a good thing.
Sometimes, being human, allows us to assume or feel like we are the only ones capable of thinking about things that are all are own. But it is all living beings, we all think about stuff. Some of it profound, but moreover we just think about stuff, roll it around in our brains and just think about it.
Some of us more thoughtful, some of us scattered, some of us distracted by our own thoughts. But we all have them, and so do other living beings, including our dogs. Experiences can shape our thoughts, but sometimes a thought is just a thought for thoughts sake. Lets be honest.
I love to watch my dogs on the deck, sun baking, or just laying there and looking around. I can watch them for as long as they are hanging out. This is the part of their lives where I am not included, at all. This is the part of their life that is all their own, private, and no other animal will ever know. If anything, I would hope that it adds a new layer of respect for other living beings. Maybe we should jump off the human band wagon and be a bit more accepting knowing this.
I love this photo of Story for so many reasons. For one I think he is a super handsome dog, but on this particular evening I had my new camera in hand and he was my muse. This photo comes to many of my lectures where the focus or topic is geared around body language, observation, and the dangers of guessing. What people tell me about him, what he is thinking, how he is feeling, and everything in between is sometimes jaw dropping. To be clear, this is a moment, micro moment in time, a snap shot, with ZERO context.
What he was thinking in this photo is none of my business, and who really will ever know. The context, which is always so important, was a full day at an agility trial where he ran his ass off and was a rock star, then swimming in Whitefish lake at our friends cabin until dusk, and then a nice big yummy dinner on the deck with the sun setting. As far as a good dog day, this was one of the best. How he was processing it I will never know. And that is OK with me. That is what makes us individuals, that is what gives us each our own life experience, and that is what makes us who we are.
Just know that your dogs dreams, thoughts, and ideas are all their own, and so are yours. While some of us might share some of our thoughts, we most certainly don’t share everything. Honoring that our dogs do the same keeps me in a humble place. And I am grateful for that. ~ Nancy