Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

July 6, 2013

Science meets furry reality

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

— An article in June edition of The Smithsonian.com asks the question: “Are dogs now just furry kids?”

(Easy answer: Yes. Feel free to stop reading now and check out the family drama in Ann Landers.)

The article brings up a bunch of studies and anecdotes about how people are treating dogs more like spoiled children, and how dogs behave like children, as well.

One study, originally published in the journal “Animal Cognition,” concluded that dogs are four times more likely to sneak food in a dark room than in a lighted room where they know we can’t see them.

If only it were that simple, oh men of science.

Years ago, the maintenance man in my rented duplex accidentally let my dog Katie out and my neighbor was kind enough to bring Katie into her house to keep the terrier out of the street. The neighbor had kids who, in turn, had a couple of hamsters. Katie waited all day until the neighbor went to pick the kids up from school and then she made her move, cracking open that Habitrail like it was a peanut shell and killing the hamsters, probably before the car was out of the driveway. I’m going to point out that she didn’t eat the hamsters, she wasn’t hungry, she just wanted to end them, like a Mafia don with a blood debt.

The neighbor was completely shocked and kept telling me that Katie behaved herself all day, never pawed at the hamster cage or acted violent in anyway. Of course she didn’t, I thought, she didn’t want to tip her paw. This was around 1998, about 15 years before the scientists figured out that dogs are sneaky. Way to stay ahead of the curve, guys.

I originally denied it, because she was my furry kid, until my then-boyfriend suggested little chalk outlines and a CSI team be brought in, and I had to accept the reality of the situation.

We buried the hamsters in a shoe box next to a flower bed, and I took the girls to the pet store for new hamsters. Katie was not invited to the funeral.

Another study, done at a vet university in Vienna showed that dogs are more confident when their owners are in the room. They compare this to the behavior of toddlers, and in case you don’t know what I’m talking about, try putting your toddler in a room with strangers and tell him or her to do something like dance or sing or even just talk. Most kids (and apparently dogs, too) will become large, breathing paperweights until you walk back into the room.

This particular study I cannot confirm. I currently have eight dogs. When I’m not around my friends tell me my pack of dogs are badly behaved and obnoxious. I know from experience that when I am there they are also badly behaved and obnoxious.

Furry kids, indeed.

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com