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My View: Not-so-dumb animals have lessons to teach

By Sandy McPherson Carrubba Geary

Pets have owned me since I was young. They never took long to train me. As a girl, I pushed my dog in my doll buggy. Afterward, she expected a reward so I rocked her while feeding her milk from a doll bottle.

Besides the dog, I had a turtle, canary and fish. They taught me responsibility. I had to feed them and clean their cages or bowls. My mother lamented that I wasn’t as good at cleaning my own messy room.

Now I wish to own an elephant. I have heard they remember places they’ve been and individuals with whom they have come in contact. I need such a memory or to learn their secret. I rarely forget a face, but the name always escapes me just as we are about to greet one another.

Frequently people refer to “dumb animals.” That happens when an animal, usually a pet, does not perform as a human thinks it should. Hence, the animal is not intelligent or the human expects the animal to act as a human would. Is it realistic to expect an animal to stop acting like, well, an animal?

In my experience animals possess intelligence and are compassionate. During my first husband’s illness, he required a hospital bed. Our cat curled up with him every night and at naptime. She seemed to understand her purr relaxed and comforted him as did her warmth. If she wasn’t in the room when he went to bed, he called her.

Sandy McPherson Carrubba Geary.

Once our older daughter visited and brought her 75-pound dog, Rain. Since daughter owned cats, too, Rain was accustomed to playing with “her kitties.” But, our kitty would have nothing to do with the intruder. I placed a baby gate between the dining room and kitchen so my cat, Bella Nera, could eat her food in peace. At first she ignored her own dish.

Seeing that Rain watched her every move, Bella walked over to Rain’s dish and grabbed a piece of dog food. She stared at the dog on the other side of the baby gate as she munched its food, seeming to relish each bite. Meanwhile poor Rain cried as the cat teased. Our cat, the runt of the litter, certainly knew how to be a bully.

Not long ago, my dog and I walked around the block on a cold day. When we headed for home, the wind buffeted us. Suddenly, instead of walking beside me as she’s trained to do, she walked behind me. I laughed at her letting me cut the winter wind for her. She was probably laughing at me for taking the full blast.

My dog understands an amazing number of words. “Dog food” and “cookie” are probably her favorites. I read once that dogs know between 150-200 words. When she appears to misunderstand what I command, she just doesn’t want to obey. That’s not being dumb, only aggravating.

When she stares at me for several minutes, I ask what she wants. She may head toward the door to indicate her need. Sometimes she goes to where treats are kept to indicate her desire. I think she likes making us laugh.

Animals have taught me about loyalty and caring. To see how joyously my dog reacts when I come home is to know I am loved. To see how she wants to stay near me when I don’t feel well is to know she intends to make me well again. I couldn’t ask more from my best friend.

Sandy McPherson Carrubba Geary, of Kenmore, knows she is loved when her dog greets her.

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