MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

What If Humanity Saw Dogs (Animals) As Different, Not Lesser Beings?

Last night at my book event at the Parker Library as part of their Colorado Author Series, I was once again met with smiles, nods and stories when I asked the group of dog lovers and dog guardians gathered there if they ever experienced their dogs reading their thoughts. Of course they had! Why is it, then, that animal behavioral science doesn't study this phenomenon in dogs when it is so commonly known among those of us who live with dogs?

It's not just about mind reading, it's also the way our canines understand so much more of what we're saying than most of us were led to believe. My dog, Maddie, has picked up where Maggie left off demonstrating how much she understands my complete sentences. Just the other day my husband and I were trying to decide which one of us would take Maddie with us when we left our house. I thought I'd ask Maddie.

"Whichever one of us you want to go with, touch us with your nose," I told her.

Back and forth she paced twice. I repeated my statement. Pace. Pace. Pace. And then -- poke, poke, poke came her wet nose on my leg! Likewise, just a few moments ago I was tossing the stick for Maddie outside. She rips them to smithereens until there's nothing left for me to pick up, although she continues to bring back the splinters for me to throw.

"Go get a bigger stick; I can't throw this," I tell her. Off she goes to get one, first trying to pull a still rooted stem out of the ground before returning with a bigger stick for me to throw.

Why do I continue to be astounded by this canine level of understanding when it happens over and over, as it did with Maggie? Perhaps it's because scientifically it's such a well kept secret; it's certainly not what we were taught about dogs, is it?

I can't help but wonder if seeing dogs and animals in general as incapable of understanding our words, tuning into our thoughts, or experiencing feelings serves a purpose for humanity as a whole somehow. For example, we are taught a hierarchy through science and religious, with humans at the top and animals, plants etc. all beneath us. In my book I share the realization that I think I always felt unconsciously, but finally became aware of at a conscious level. it is that animals are not lesser beings, they are simply different beings that we share the planet with.

Many of us were also taught by religion that dogs/animals are not spiritual beings. That is, we have souls but they don't. Really? Please tell me who has more soul, more unconditional love than our beloved dogs?

One of the reasons I love talking to people at my book events is to bring to light this idea that animals simply are different but not lesser beings. Why? Because I believe that seeing animals as lesser beings allows humans to commit atrocities against them, such as the deplorable ways dogs are treated in puppy mills, animals are cruelly experimented on in laboratories, horses are enslaved to obtain the hormone Premarin, calves live in the dark barely able to move in order to create veal that is tender, and chickens ... I could keep going but I think you get the drift.

It's not our place to have "dominion over the animals" the way humans have interpreted it and the license that's been taken with it. Perhaps a more appropriate way to say it is that we have "stewardship of the animals." What would change in the way humans treat animals if we began to see dogs and all animals as thinking, feeling, communicative, and yes, even telepathic at times? What if we even began to see them as equal beings? If that's too hard for you then just different, but certainly not lesser beings.

I, for one, see animals as spiritual beings. As I said to the group last night, aren't all living things Spirit in different forms? What do you think?

Posted by:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life


Barbara Techel, Author said...

Wow, this is a great post, Dawn! I truly believe animals are spiritual beings also and I have no doubt they have souls. I believe with all my heart, God gave us animals to teach us compassion, non-judgement, and so many more things we humans need to learn.
As the mom of a handicapped dog, I wish more people would not take pity with a dog who can't walk. Humans find it hard to see and will put an animal to sleep if they lose a limb or use of... when in fact an animal thrives much better most times than humans who lose the loss of limbs. An animal simply accepts, adjusts and moves on. Another lesson for all of us to learn.
Jon Katz, author of many dogs has a new book coming out in August called, "The Soul of a Dog." I know he has always felt dogs don't have souls, but it will be interesting to see what he has to say. Some of his view points have shifted over the years.

~Barbara Techel
Author & Proud Mom of Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Dog

Dawn Kairns, Author of MAGGIE: The Dog Who Changed My Life said...

Thank you, Barbara. I so agree that animals are here to teach humans compassion & non-judgement, and so many lessons. I wouldn't want to be here without them!

Thanks for the information on the new Jon Katz book. That will be interesting to hear if he has shifted!

Dawn Kairns
Author, MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

Ingrid said...

What a wonderful post! You're probably preaching to the choir here, though, Dawn :-)

As far as I'm concerned, animals are our greatest teachers if only we take the time and make the internal space to listen. They are so much closer to Source, Spirit, God - whatever your name for it is - than we are, and they can teach us so much about connecting with that same energy.

Barbara, my little Buckley, the subject of my upcoming book "Buckley's Story - Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher", had a deformed hindleg. It was always interesting to me how it was the first thing people noticed about her. Since it was such a non-issue for her, after a while, I never really noticed it anymore except as something that made her special and unique. I was always surprised when people asked about it. My "gimpy tortie" was an amazing teacher.

I enjoy Jon Katz's books, but I'm not too terribly excited about "Soul of the Dog". He's talked about it on his blog, and I think he's missing the mark with it. While his views have shifted somewhat, it feels to me that he still doesn't quite "get it", which is especially surprising to me given his experiences with Izzy, his hospice trained dog, who he wrote about in "Izzy and Lenore", which I thoroughly enjoyed. I'll still read "The Sould of a Dog" when it comes out, but I doubt that it's going to resonate with me.

Dawn Kairns, Author of MAGGIE: The Dog Who Changed My Life said...

I, too, see animals as our greatest teachers & as much closer to Source, Spirit, - than we are, I believe part of their purpose is to help connect with Spirit energy.

I didn't realize that Buckley, had a deformed hind leg, Ingrid. I love how animals like Buckley and Frankie teach us what a non-issue physical "handicaps" are for them.

I appreciate your comments re: thinking that Jon Katz is missing the mark with his upcoming book, "Soul of the Dog".

Hmmm. As I once heard stated, "How Long Take Teach?"

Dawn Kairns