Sitting at a light in Berkeley one drizzly day recently, I was amused by the sight of a young woman jogging across Telegraph Avenue with her brindle Pitbull on leash. The dog was so exultant about their romp in the rain that he was actually prancing like a racehorse, springing off his back legs, kicking his front paws up high and proud, dancing amidst the drops. Made his mom laugh so hard she had to stop and catch her breath.
The contagious joy tittering tots and delight-filled dogs exude makes a special magic in the world. It can cast a kind of spell that causes us to transcendour buzz-killing habit of squelching our own happiness with some kind of “yeah… but”. You can be sure this Pitbull wasn’t thinking, “Yeah, this is fun, but I’ll be dead before I’m 20, so I can’t get too excited.”
When we obsess about what we can’t have, we aren’t able to grasp what we DO have. It’s like that old Roger Miller song: “You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you’ve a mind, too.”
Another great thing about dogs is that they aren’t part of the self-help lifestyle and therefore prone to blather on all day long about how to be happy (guilty as charged). No, they teach by example. Sometimes it takes an actual bitch to remind you to quit your bitchin’ and just enjoy.
Just in time for the Roxie Theater’s first annual Bowwow Film Festival (details on page 10), I recently read an article about the original Rin Tin Tin of silent movie fame in The New Yorker. Rinty was one of those amazing creatures who make you consider the “human” potential inherent in dogs.
There were many German Shepherds saving the day in movies during cinema’s silent era. Rin Tin Tin had by far the most staying power, though, because he was a real actor.
He could do something like 37 different facial expressions on command. Surely that feat requires metacognitive abilities, being able to observe one’s own thoughts and emotions, thereby gaining some control over them. Metacognition has generally been attributed only to us heavy-brains.
Considering Rin Tin Tin’s talents, I can’t help but wonder how metacognitive our family pets are. Do our furry friends have thoughts like this: “I’ve noticed that when I’m pondering how to please my person I sometimes cock my head to one side, and that alone bring her enjoyment. I like it when she’s happy, she gives me more treats then and scratches my ears, so maybe I’ll cock my head in her direction once in awhile even when I’m not pondering something.”
Do our dogs “think” in these ways? I have no doubt they do. I think they’ve got enough sentient genius to play us like that, and that they do. Often.
We want to know what you think. Are the following quips good dog jokes or just “Good God!” jokes? The pun-ultimate or the height of ridicluelessness? You be the judge.
A dog’s house is his castle, in a manor of speaking.
Even dogs that have breeding partners need a little something on the side, just to break the monogamy.
Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
To a dog, all chickens are poultry in motion.
Dogs prefer not to be walked by teenagers, because if you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.
Please send your opinions to – Deep Six Data & Paper Shredding, 1 Make Believe Pl., Oceanside, CO. (Code? Zip)
Herb Canine is one of writer/musician Tad Toomay’s many alter egos. Get acquainted with the others at www.tadtoomay.com.