I've spent the past week with Abby, a beautiful Golden Retriever who, while not my personal pet, is a part of my family by virtue of her "ownership" of my sister and her family. I've been taking care of Abby, and Abby's House (because we all know that dogs really run the household, don't they?) while most of the rest of the family is enjoying the good life in Palm Springs for a week.
Earlier today, I was sitting at the kitchen island typing on my laptop when I noticed Abby lying on the floor and twitching madly. Her eyes were partly open but from the movements of her facial muscles and her paws, it was obvious she was in Doggie Dreamland. And I wondered, not for the first time, where do dogs "go" when they dream?
I've never really thought of dogs as having an "inner life", mainly because they really have more of an "outer life" where so much of their happiness and well-being seems to come from their ability to have a loving bond with their humans. In Abby's case, her definition of a day well-lived would be entirely outer-focused and would probably be something like this:
Woke up the humans at the crack of dawn so they could let me out, where I peed (ahhhh) and pooped and sniffed the ground and felt very frisky afterward... man, it's tough having to hold it all night long sometimes! Then, the woman fed me my breakfast -- my favorite, kibble and gravy! -- and then I had a long, cold drink of water from my bowl. Then I was ready to play with my ball or my Frisbee, but the humans didn't seem to want to play with me. I don't understand why they never make time to just PLAY unless I keep nudging them over and over... it's like they're too busy doing so many other things, they've forgotten what fun it is just to run through the tall grass and chase a Frisbee!
So, I found a comfortable spot on the floor and took a nap. Then something was itching me so I rolled over on my back and wiggled back and forth to scratch that itch. Then I moved to another spot and napped some more.
Oh joy! The woman has my leash... we're going for a walk! We walk and walk up the hill and around the neighborhood, and she lets me stop and sniff whenever I smell something interesting.
Then we came inside and I got a drink of water. After that, I followed the woman around the house trying to get her to pet me... I love it when they pet me and scratch me behind the ears. I need lots of love and attention and it's hard to be patient and wait until they have time to cuddle with me.
When I have nothing better to do, I like to sit and look out the windows at the neighbor's house (but I don't like their Dalmation, Siren -- he's really snippy!)... I like this new house we moved to this year, because all the windows are low enough for me to see out of without jumping on the furniture (which they yell at me for doing). I also like to lick my paws a lot... but I much prefer giving kisses to my people!
Finally, the Boy came home and decided to take me outside to play! I LOVE it when he does that -- he throws this nice bouncy rubber ball that fits just perfectly in my mouth, and he runs around the yard with me carrying some kind of thing on a stick that he uses to throw the ball really far. After a while I got tired and hot, so I rested in the shade for a few minutes until I was ready to play again.
Having just spent a full week with Abby, I can well imagine this is how she'd describe her average day. With dogs, it's all about their five senses and the people around them: who will feed me, who will play with me, who will let me out, what is that I smell, won't someone pet me again? But trying to imagine a dog's dream is another story... because if all your needs are already being met, what is there left to dream about?
Was Abby dreaming of running through a field after a rabbit? Was she dreaming of having all the steak and chicken she could eat? Or was she having a nightmare... and would her nightmare be having no one to love her and take care of her? Is she afraid the rest of her family is never coming back -- you can't explain "vacation" to a dog -- and is she suffering from abandonment issues?
Whatever Abby's "inner life" might be (if indeed she has one) or what doggie dreams may come, I can tell you from first-hand experience that this is, as the little bone-shaped plaque near her food dish states, one "spoiled rotten Golden Retriever". She really does have it all, and she knows how to be in the moment and enjoy it. We could all do with a bit of "a dog's life" every now and again.
I need to wrap this up now. I have a dog staring at me, ears perked up and pink tongue hanging out, on the other side of the glass study doors. Guess it must be dinner time.