Monday, October 09, 2006

Smarter Than the Average Bear

Today I read an article about animal intelligence - is Flipper REALLY as intelligent as a human, or is that big brain just due to fat cells that keep the dolphin brain warm? What with the recent posts about dogs from Velvet Sacks and Ordinary Life I started thinking about our Tasha. She was a golden/labbie mix and passed on 4 years ago at the ripe, old age of 16.

Tasha was not the brightest dog; definitely not Lassie or Rin Tin Tin material. She never learned to play fetch - she played her own version, which we called "keep away" - she would run after a ball, but would not bring it back. She wanted us to chase her to get the ball back. She never did catch on to the fact that she had to bring the ball back if she wanted us to keep playing. Tasha also liked to watch TV - she would always bark at other dogs on TV - especially the cartoon ones. She was a funny girl, stupid, but we loved her anyway.

One incident comes to mind, though, when Tasha was about 3 and my son was about 1 1/2. We had just gotten back from vacation and I had picked Tasha up from the kennel. The kennel people had given us a biscuit to give her, but since she was prone to carsickness, I waited until we got home to give it to her. I plopped my son down on the couch, gave him the biscuit and told him to "Give it to Tasha," who was sitting next to him. I then stepped into the adjoining laundry room to get a load started.

All of a sudden I heard Tasha whimpering, so I went to see what was going on. My son had put his little arm, all the way up to his elbow, down poor Tasha's throat to try and get the biscuit back! Tasha was doing her best not to bite down or in any way hurt him. I extricated my son's arm - which did not have any teeth marks or other damage on it - and he immediately started crying "Tasha bit me!" For several weeks after, he would hold up an arm and say "Tasha bit me" to try and get some sympathy from various friends - most of the time we would say "Wrong arm, kiddo! and he would immediately hold up his other arm and continue "Tasha bit me" . He was too funny.

So, Tasha was maybe not the smartest dog that ever lived but she came through when it was important - she always knew to be gentle with children, even when provoked. A lot of humans could stand to be as wise as my Tasha was.


Kat Campbell said...

Sunflower! You had the perfect dog! One that makes you laugh because they're so darn dumb and is gentle with children. So that's what that game is called, my dog runs away with toys and never brings them back! Congrats on being a Dr. John marathon site!

QUASAR9 said...

"So, Tasha was maybe not the smartest dog that ever lived but she came through when it was important - she always knew to be gentle with children, even when provoked. A lot of humans could stand to be as wise as my Tasha was."

You don't call that smart.
Instinct (dumb instinct) might have been to bite your son.
Wisdom (smart instinct) had everything to know that human's can neuter dogs or have them put down on a whim, if they endanger a child.

So whilst in some (neanderthal) wild state it may have seemed smart to bite.
I think it is self-preservation as well as perhaps a genuine fondness for (and desire not to harm) which prevented the dog harming the child

But hey I'm sure you din't want all this psycho-babble
I'm just glad the kid and dog are ok.

Some domestic dogs (and many other animals which interact with humans) seem to be no different from humans, they just don't have human bodies or human vocal chords so they adjust to the 'vehicle' they are in. And Nature demands they do so much faster than their human counterparts.

Thanks for stopping by
And noticing the "lightning like rage dissipating swiftly" pun

Velvet Sacks said...

Sunflower, Tasha sounds like a wonderful dog. My next-door neighbor used to have a golden mix named Monkey who was also extremely gentle. One day Monkey found a baby bird on the ground and guarded it all day long, until that little bird finally figured out how to fly like its siblings did much earlier in the day. Monkey didn't appear to even consider that the bird might have made a tasty lunch.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Thanks Kay - she was perfect and we do miss her. The more I hear about Butch, Kadi and Spot - the more I lean towards getting another pup. Dogs are the best.

Thanks for visiting again, Quasar. One thing makes me think that Tasha didn't act out of self-preservation. I had seen her take on larger dogs, putting herself between the threatening dog and my children. Definitely NOT self-preservation! She was "protecting her pack" - instinct, as you mentioned. I do think some animals can be as intelligent as some humans - of course there are exceptions to each, LOL. Maybe humans just aren't intelligent enough to discern animal intelligence?

Velvet, what a lovely story about Monkey! I think Tasha and Monkey would have gotten along well.

The Rev. Dr. Kate said...

We have a yellow lab - sweet natured, will eat anything and is a stupid as they come. A true story (one of many): The day before the Christmas Pageant I am ironing 32 white angel costumes in my kitchen. My mother notices there is blood spatter on the knees of her pants. We check my small child who does not appear to be bleeding anywhere and the dog, who does not appear to be bleeding anywhere. She goes to change her pants and I continue ironing. My mother returns to the kitchen and says. "My God -its all over the angel costumes!" And sure enough, the dog was standing in the middle of the kitchen, wagging her tail and splattering blood all over the angel costumes. $900.00, two laser surgeries and seven weeks later, the vet had to crop her tail because we couldn't get it to heal. I am not sure why I have a dog!


Your dog as you said may be stupid but very lovable. He knew how to be gentle with a kid who was very rough. You never know what kids can do. They can unlimited and unexpected things that we adults never think it could ever happen.
Thanks for stopping by. I didn't pass by because of Dr. John. I just wanted to say thanks for your lovely comments. Nice meeting you and hope this won't be the last.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Oh, Rev. Kate - your poor pooch! Did you ever figure out what happened to her tail? Whatever did you do about the angel costumes???

Tasha injured her tail once with her over enthusiastic wagging, but it healed. She also liked to eat things. After she got spayed, she wasn't allowed to run outside for several weeks and had lots of excess energy - we had to keep her confined in the kitchen whenever we went out. I came back home one day and she had eaten a bottle of my thyroid medication, so I took her to the vet, who pumped her stomach. In addition to the pills, the vet catalogued an address book, pen and 16 other things that came out of Tasha's stomach.

She was a pain sometimes, but we have only fond memories of her :-)

Thanks for the return visit, Friday - I've made the best friends by visiting blogs! In retrospect, I probably should not have left Tasha alone with a baby, LOL. But then again, Tasha did not betray my confidence in her!

QuillDancer said...

Good dogs, Lassie material or not, love their humans and will suffer much to care for them.

I am puff, puff, puffing through in Dr. John's Marathon.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Thanks for stopping by, Quill. Yes, Tasha was a good dog!

The Rev. Dr. Kate said...

The angel costumes spent the night soaking in bleach and somehow survived the experience. However, I didn't have time to re-iron them, so our angels were slightly wrinkled - but then all that singing and traveling must wear on angles too! The dog spent four weeks living in her crate on tranquilizers to keep her still and eventually her newly bobed tail healed. She went on to eat many new things - the end result of which began my day this morning. You know its going to be a bad day when the smell hits you from upstairs!

Sunflower Optimism said...

Good thing angels wear white, Rev. Kate! Hint: for our Christmas pageant, each parent is responsible for their own child's costume ;-)

Hmmm, sounds like this dog of yours is no angel! Tasha had very few "accidents" in her life. When she lost control, towards the end, I think she was rather embarrassed by it.

Ordinary Janet said...

aww, what a sweet story, and a sweet dog! I'd love her to bits. Smart or stupid, I love 'em all.

The Rev. Dr. Kate said...

Abby is proof postive that a dog (even a relatively young one) cannot be taught new tricks! Some day ask me about my parents 45th wedding anniversary party and the batteries!

Sunflower Optimism said...

Thanks for stopping by Janet - I've been reading your Ordinary Life - will catch up on comments when junior goes back to college, promise!

Hey Rev. Kate - our last priest's dog was Abby also! Is that a priest thing? LOL Actually, he adopted his Abby as an adult dog, so she already had the name. But she was a strange dog - definite attitude problem - she reminded me more of a cat than a dog (no, I'm not slurring cats, all you cat lovers out there!)

I'll bite - do tell us about the battery and anniversary party.

The Rev. Dr. Kate said...

Getting kids and dog ready to head to my parents anniversary party - we are literally walking out the door. Older son drops his CD player and the batteries pop out. Dog bites into one and shoots battery acid up the side of her face and nose. Hose dog off, rinse out her mouth and wet dog and now wet us get in car and drive to party. In the middle of the party, my mother says to me "you had better come look at the dog - she is foaming at the mouth." The battery acid had gotten inside her mouth and blistered it. I left the party and spent the night a dog emergency with her. And she came to us an adult dog already named Abby too!

Minxxeee's Mayhem said...

I used to have a dog when I was a little girl, he was an old English sheep dog. Big boofy thing he was, and I used to play on the swing set trying to go as high as I could until I would jump off at the peak of the swing and see if I could fly and my big old English would watch me with an eagle eye and figure out exactly where I would land and go and lie there so I could land on him instead of risking injury to myself by hitting the ground. What was amusing though was the fact that he would growl at anyone who ever yelled at me be it my parents or family members or just random people. I miss that dog.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Oh, poor Abby, Rev. Kate - and poor you! Here, I though Tasha was the dumbest dog on earth, but you know - maybe Abby deserves that distinction.

Minxxeee - sounds like your dog should win the smartest canine award, what with knowing the physics of trajectories, and all. What a wonderful dog he was - and I bet you didn't get yelled at too often either, huh? ;-)

Heimdallr said...

Aw that is so sweet. Tasha was a clever dog, she knw the importance of making you do the work and how important it was to be gentle with children.

My two labs, brother and sister, died nine years ago within nine months of each other. The girl, Goldie, was the smart one and always told her brother Ben what to do. Both wonderful characters and I loved them dearly. labs are such gentle loving dogs.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Thanks for the visit, Sandy - you must be back from your travels. Are you going to stay put for awhile? Looking forward to more photos!

Goldie and Ben sound like they were a wonderful pair. I think the one who was left died of a broken heart, poor thing. How difficult for you to lose both, so close together. One never forgets them, four years later, nine years later - or ever.

Miss 1999 said...

What a great dog! Animals are so much smarter than people truly give them credit for many times.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Hey, thanks for stopping by Miss 1999! I remember you from Rev. Kate's and Dr. John's.

Tasha was a real dummy - but she always came through when it counted.