Dogs To The Rescue? Maybe Not.
Despite owning two of the dumbest dogs in America, I consider myself a lover of canines.
I grew up in a house that always had a dog - usually an Irish setter or a lab - and for the past 25 years, due to family members with allergies, I’ve lived with poodles.
The first was a miniature poodle named Taffy who was a lovable mutt with a penchant for stealing socks. The moment we left the house she charged upstairs, headed for the hamper, looking for footwear to push with her nose into a chair or sofa cushion.
On occasion, when I’d forgotten something and ran back inside the house, she would slink past me, without making eye contact, a soggy sock hanging out of the corner of her mouth.
“What do you have, Taffy?” I’d demand, as she trotted by.
She’d pretend not to hear until I tackled her and forcibly removed my gym sock from her molars.
She was a terrific dog, though, who slept with my kids on alternating nights.
Taffy lived to be 15. By the time she died we had reserve pets. Two toy poodles, Tiki and Ronde.
These littermates are not so endearing. They are, quite simply, the densest dogs I’ve ever met.
They know just two things: The location of their food bowls and their names.
Not that they come when their names are called. Not at all. They look in the direction of the human calling them with identical perplexed expressions on their furry faces.
They know no tricks, are not reliably housebroken, cannot climb a flight of stairs without help and they growl at every dog we pass on the street. They weigh exactly five pounds each.
God’s little mistakes.
Several years ago I slipped and fell on the carpeted steps outside of the kitchen where these two spend most of their time. I was moaning on the floor - certain I’d broken my shoulder - and rolled over in time to see both of them a few feet away.
I’ll never forget their reaction to my accident. One was gazing, disinterestedly, in my direction. The other was admiring his private parts.
Neither cared that the person who fed, walked and held them on her lap while she wrote was writhing in pain on the floor.
Heartless little bastards.
I remembered that incident yesterday as I read a story in The New York Times about a study aimed at measuring empathy in dogs.
According to the Times, 34 dogs and their owners took part in an experiment. The humans sat on a chair behind a glass door that was easy to push open while the dogs were on the other side. The people either cried, sang or called for help.
Researchers watched the dogs’ reactions.
More than half of the dogs went to the aid of their owners. The ones whose owners were crying arrived three times faster than the dogs that responded to singing owners.
But some of the dogs - indifferent canines like mine - did nothing.
The researchers are being cagey about the breeds of the animals that were tested, although a short video accompanying the story shows Ralph, a pug, racing to the rescue.
The headline on the Times story? “Lassie Got Help, Would Your Dog?”
Sadly, I know the answer. I’m on my own.