Saturday Paws: You lookin’ at me?

Cover of "Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See,...

Cover via Amazon

Do you remember Robert DeNiro’s “(are) You lookin’ at me?” In the movie he is kind of aggressive with this statement–but some of us grew up in households where being aware of who is looking in your direction is a good survival skill, even if it is just a sibling getting ready to smack you with a pillow! You sense just the right time to turn—a second before the THWACK!

I sometimes catch my dogs just looking at me, too! Long ago dogs decided to associate with the humans, and then, desiring relationship, they had to adjust and change many of their original features to communicate with us. Alexandra Horowitz, in her book, Inside of a Dog, tells how dogs look at our eyes for all kinds of additional information. A loved dog will notice many clues about how our day went just by looking at us – with full eye contact! Now you already know that our dogs can tell so much about how life is treating us with those wonderful olfactory (noses) nerves.  To our one million identifiable scents they outdo us by 7 million more! And then they have added their up-close-and-personal look-us -over eye contact! They will also follow our eyes at feeding time, looking at food locations, spying their favorite toy or tracking as you pick up your keys! Many of my friends report their dogs actually watch certain TV shows – with or without their owners!

Horowitz also mentions that many dogs do not show the whites of their eyes or a distinctive iris.  As you can see in Mae-be’s photos–she definitely has both! Ruffles, on the other hand, has golden-colored eyes and is not as comfortable with full frontal eye contact–but she is learning! If our dogs were still hanging out with the wolves they would not look squarely in our eyes. Wolves avoid eye contact unless they are asserting their status of authority. In several situations  I do believe it was my ability to look directly into the eyes of a wolf and hold myself in the dominant position (big, upright and front facing) that allowed me to assert my stand-off. But I always warn others that when meeting a new dog it is best to wait awhile before assuming a position with direct eye-to-eye contact. With a rescue dog you never know when some visual may trigger memory of an event best left to the past!

Last week was a particularly challenging week for me, but every night upon returning home from my day job Mae-be and Ruffles lavished me with extra attention! They looked me straight in the eyes, sensed my weariness and wanted to comfort me–even after being fed! Then they put off playfully chasing each other and sat next to me with paws resting on my leg. It is with great affection that they will sit like that and wordlessly express, “It’s okay. We are with you! That’s enough for now. Just let it go!” And then the Boxer will punctuate with a great big exhale. His sigh is such a great example of what I also need in that moment–much like the importance of an exhale in yoga or guided meditation—Release!

Change is one of the most difficult areas for us as humans, yet these precious canines will do so much to continue relating to us. They offer us so much in companionship! And isn’t it something to realize that another species could want to be with us, and so much so as to make the necessary changes to make that happen?

I just wanted to give you a little something to think about while you enjoy your pets  long lingering gaze. And I hope that you enjoy your weekend!

Blessings,

Beth

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