Max, my three-year old Australian Blue Heeler’s watchdog by proxy tendencies came out shortly after he was adopted. He’d hear something in the back yard, commence barking, then implore me to check out the suspected intruder. When he determined it was safe, he’d follow me–we’d investigate together. …Cowardice or intelligence? You be the judge. Now, we have his adopted “sister” Maggie–also a herding dog.
Yesterday afternoon it played out beautifully–like an act of pure genius. My wife and myself had our regular afternoon “tea.” The dogs are included with treats of oatmeal cookie bits. Max, in the middle of our “tea ceremony” began barking loudly and convincingly. Maggie immediately left the room, went to the front window to investigate. Max stayed behind, scarfed down her treats until, not even the tiniest of crumbs, were left. Then, he fastidiously licked away any remaining evidence from the tile floor. Maggie returned, looked where her treats formerly had been, gave Max the “evil eye.” Dogs can’t talk, however, Max’s “poker-faced” expression said it all, “What? I’m just as surprised as you are.” “I didn’t see a thing.”
It’s a relationship cultivated over thousands of years. Dogs, cousins to the wolf, instinctively learned the habits of humans. My dogs seem to have their owners trained quite well. They know how to get what they want. This leads up to the story of an alleged “psychic dog” from a few years back. I’d been a telephone repair technician, so I could relate to the story. Like similar stories, this could be an urban legend. From a technical standpoint, in the era of telephone landlines, it could have happened.
A repair technician read the narrative on his next work ticket. The telephone subscriber reported that her dog seemed to know when the phone was going to ring. He’d bark and howl immediately before the phone rang and, sure enough, there’d be someone on the line. A call was made to the customer before arrival. The widow was a senior citizen–lived alone with her pet dog. She related the story as written.
The technician arrived at the premises, introduced himself, and set to work in the backyard. He grumbled to himself–“either, this old lady was a kook, or she had a dog with psychic powers.” Which, would it turn out to be? A brief investigation and some test calls later, he found, that, indeed, when the phone rang; the dog barked and howled.
It had nothing to do with canine genius or psychic powers. The dog’s metal choke collar and lead was tied to the telephone line. Time passed and friction from the dog’s chain sliding over the wire skinned off the insulation. Every time the customer’s line was engaged, ninety volts of direct ringing current shocked the poor pooch. The dog was secured differently, the line repaired, and everyone was happy. Further evidence that, there are no true “dog psychics.” If the story were true, I’d hope it was ignorance and expediency, over cruelty on the part of the pet owner.