With nearly a year having passed since Ace and I rolled to a stop, after 27,000 miles and one year spent rambling, he seemed more than ready for a quick road trip.
When the time did come to leave, he jumped in the back before I could set up his ramp.
Two and a half hours later, we were in Spindale, N.C., where both spring and pollen were in the air, and where I gave a talk about my book, with Ace laying down at my side, doing absolutely nothing, but upstaging me all the same.
Our friend Kim had helped set up our appearance at Isothermal Community College, and when the talk was over, after everyone came up and petted Ace, I followed her to her house.
There, Ace again didn’t want to wait for the ramp. He jumped out and, sensing a cat, ran into her open garage.
I turned to look and got a fleeting glance of a white cat who seemed to jump six feet, straight up, into the air, landing on a heating duct. That was the first, and last, Ace would see of Lily, though he never gave up hope.
Even after Kim got Ace out and closed the garage door, he spent about 15 minutes sitting in front of the the cat door, and, for the next two days — despite having 10 acres at his disposal — he chose to mostly sit in front of one cat door or the other, in hopes Lily would appear. She never did.
Ace, who turned seven in March, had a pretty busy schedule.
And that’s not even counting all the time he put in searching for the cat and monitoring any activity in Kim’s kitchen.
After the appearance at the college, we met with a book club at Fireside Books and Gifts in Forest City.
Again he behaved well, though he did stare down one of the club members until she forfeited the last bite of her sandwich.
Maybe I should go to bookstores and stare at people until they buy my book.
On Friday we appeared in a huge auditorium at Rutherfordton-Spindale Central High School, speaking to about 350 students, most of whom came up to meet him at the end of my talk, which was halfway about Ace and our travels and halfway about DOG, INC.
Once again, it seemed I was doing all the work, and he, effortlessly, was getting all the attention.
He all but ignored a cute little pup in the store named Gretchen, and got growly with her when she tried to jump up on him.
Back at my friend Kim’s house, once all the pizza was gone, he conked out — too tired to even think about Lily.
Our apologies to Lily, for forcing her to lay low for two days.
Our thanks to Kim and family for putting us up, arranging all the appearances, and spoiling Ace rotten.
Between her, the students and me, he consumed three bags of treats over the two-day period.
He has three days to recover before our next trip, to Wilmington, N.C., for a Lunch with an Author event at Cape Fear Community College. It raises funds for creative writing scholarships. Attendees, for $40, get to have lunch with one of about a dozen authors, get a signed copy of that author’s book, and get to listen to that author talk about their book with their mouth full. I imagine it will be like a job interview lunch, where, for fear of getting caught with your mouth full, you don’t really eat.
It being a lunch, Ace won’t be attending that. That would probably be his idea of heaven — a dozen food-filled tables to mooch from — but it wouldn’t be a good idea at all. He will get to see his friends Steve, Louise and Earl again, and we’ll do our best to squeeze in some beach time.
Unless, of course, he sees a cat, in which case we’ll spend all our time waiting for that cat to reappear, even though it won’t.
His cat love has only intensified in recent months — ever since our neighbor got a kitty named Tom, and they began bonding daily through a window, as if on a prison visit.
He definitely seems to be ever-hopeful, and under the impression that good things come to those who wait — whether what he’s waiting for is the next road trip, a hunk of pizza crust flung in his direction, or, best of all, a cat.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 2nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, appearances, auditorium, book, books, cloning, dog books, dog cloning, dog inc., fireside books, fireside books and gifts, forest city, isothermal community college, john woestendiek, north carolina, r-s central high school, road trip, rutherfordton, spindale, stage, steinbeck, talks, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley
Remember Denver, the guilty, oh-so-guilty, looking yellow lab that was captured on video by her owner while she was being interrogated in the case of the missing cat treats?
We suggested — partly in jest — that she might be innocent, that appearances can be deceiving, not to mention misinterpreted, and that, just maybe, the cat did it.
Now — with the video having gone viral, with dog and owner having appeared on the ABC’s Good Morning America, with a line of “guilty dog” merchandise having been spawned — there’s more reason to believe that Denver might have been wrongly convicted. How guilty one looks and how guilty one is are two different things — especially when it comes to dogs.
Guilt, research shows, may be just another human emotion that dog owners anthropomorphically ascribe to dogs.
And all those behaviors Denver exhibited – avoiding eye contact, lying down, rolling into a submissive position, dropping the tail, holding down the ears or head, raising a paw – are more likely triggered by the owner’s semi-scolding tones than any feelings of “remorse.”
This reminder/revelation comes from someone who knows, who did her master’s dissertation on this very topic, and who produces one of my new favorite blogs, Dog Spies.
Julie Hecht is a New York-based behavioral researcher who has worked with Patricia McConnell and Alexandra Horowitz. She wrote her dissertation at the University of Edinburg on “Anthropomorphism and ‘guilty’ behavior in the dog,” and did her research with the Family Dog Project in Budapest, Hungary. She recently started Dog Spies, which focuses on the science behind dog behaviors and the dog-human relationship, and she divides her time between research, lecturing, blogging and working with individual pet owners.
As was my goal (plug alert) in my recently published book, “DOG, INC: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend,” she attempts to take the boring out of science, thereby making it interesting and understandable. “Scientific journals should be titled, ‘Lots of great information within, a tad boring to read!’ Dog Spies translates that information and shares it with you,” reads the introduction to her blog.
Judging from her “guilty dog” blog entry — and you know its trustworthy, because it has footnotes – Denver’s appearance, with her owners, on the ABC morning show raised her hackles a bit.
“According to the dictionary, ‘news’ is ‘information about recent events or happenings.’ I did not see any news during that morning show. Instead, I saw a bunch of morning personalities throwing out assumptions and offering the audience pleasing banter and humorous judgments about dogs. They provide no real information or ‘news’ about what happened to the cat treats.”
Here Hecht has hit on one of my pet peeves — pun definitely not intended. Rather than shedding some light, doing some research, and furthering our understanding of canines, the ABC segment — like so much of what the media, blogs included, feed us about dogs — was the kind of cutesy, substance-free fluff that reinforces misinformation and misunderstanding.
Like most everyone else, the smiling morning show hosts concluded Denver must have eaten the cat treats. When shown the empty bag and asked, “Did you do this?” Denver displays squinting eyes, averts her head and makes a highly laughable presentation of her teeth.
Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
Or maybe not.
Hecht cites a 2008 research paper that says 74 percent of dog owners attribute guilt to dogs, and believe dogs know when they have done something owners disapprove of. But scientific research shows that it’s not knowledge of a misdeed, or remorse, that leads to the guilty look, but an owner’s scolding. (See the New York Times piece, “It’s an Owner’s Scolding That Makes a ‘Guilty’ Dog.”)
Or, see this — a video Hecht made that shows a dog named Gidget being falsely accused:
As Alexandra Horowitz, author of “Inside of a Dog,” once put it: “We’ve trained them that when they see us angry, they give us that guilty look. I’m not saying they don’t feel guilt … I can’t test that yet. But we generate the context that prompts them to produce this look.
Why then, in the guilty dog video gone viral, does Denver show these behaviors when the other, presumed innocent family dog, Masey, does not?
“Research finds that even post-transgression, not all dogs show the ‘guilty look’ in the presence of a non-scolding owner,” Hecht says. And, transgressions aside, it might be the simple fact that Denver is a more expressively submissive dog, according to Hecht, who says part two of her entry on the “guilty dog look” will be appearing soon on her blog.
Why do dogs show what appears to be a guilty look more so than do their progenitors, wolves?
“Dogs have, for the most part, incredibly malleable and expressive faces (much more so than, say, cats) and from this, we can often see the subtleties of their eyebrows going down or up or their wide forward-facing eyes, becoming wider. All of these things could impact how humans attribute mental states to dogs,” Hecht told me.
My theory is there’s more at play — though maybe I’m giving dogs more intellectual credit than they deserve. I think mastering the guilty look is another way dogs have evolved since their domestication, and to cope with their domestication — part of their ongoing adaption to pethood. By showing submission, some of them may have have figured out, they can keep the peace, and maybe even get a belly rub or a Milkbone.
To me, the even more interesting question, when it comes to “the guilty look,” is whether, even before the scolding comes, dogs can sense it’s about to. Before a word comes out of the owner’s mouth, before an angry stance is even taken, can dogs sense that some displeasure is churning within us?
I, without any research or footnotes to back me, believe so. My scientific explanation for this: It’s magic.
Dogs are figuring us out. Which, until recent years, is maybe more than they could say about us. We’ve always been more concerned with their brawn than their brain, more concerned with their beauty than their behavior. It’s man’s hand that has led to the vast diversity of shapes and sizes in dogs. And while breeders have begun to put a higher priority on temperament, it can still be argued that appearance is placed above all else.
Could it be, in their way – without the aid of microscopes, opposable thumbs or access to our pedigrees – dogs are looking more deeply into us than we are into them? Could it be, during their time in domestication, dogs, as a species, have amassed a wealth of knowledge on how to best get along with humans, and have become even better at doing so than humans?
I think there’s more at work than breeding and genetics and instinct when it comes to dog behavior. An ongoing and not fully understood evolution is at play in the dog-human relationship. And that is the reason – all those unanswered questions about behavior, coupled with those we wrongly assume we know the answers to – why dog blogs of substance, like Hecht’s, are important.
At the same time, though, I rue the day when our understanding of dog behavior is complete — when we can explain every act of dog as stemming from some lingering instinct, or adaptation to their domestication. For then the magic will be gone.
I want all three — my science, my magic and my dog. Does that make me greedy?
Posted by jwoestendiek April 27th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abc, adaptation, alexandra horowitz, animals, anthropomorphism, appearances, behavior, cat treats, cognition, coverage, denver, dog, dog inc., dog spies, dog-human, dogs, dogs guilty look, domestication, emotions, feelings, good morning america, guilt, guilty, guilty look, humans, inside of a dog, instinct, julie hecht, looks, media, morning show, news, patricia mcconnell, pets, relationship, remorse, scolding, submission, submissive, video, viral
Apparently, there was no need to even question the cat after this yellow lab, in the view of his owner, all but confessed to the crime — getting into the cat treat bag.
For all those who say dogs don’t feel guilt, or something closely akin to it, explain this reaction.
Based on it, Denver, the yellow lab who is the second to be interrogated, is sent to the pen — though I would point out the evidence was entirely circumstantial, there was no DNA testing, he was never read his rights and he received no trial before a jury of his peers.
We hope his sentence was a short one.
And we still think it’s possible the cat did it.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 20th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, appearances, cat, cat treats, cats, circumstantial, confession, crime, denver, detective, dogs, evidence, funny, golden retriever, guilt, guilty, investigation, lie to me, macy, pets, remorse, showing, suspects, treats, trouble, truth, video, yellow lab
How did the sharpei get its wrinkles?
Scientists who have analyzed the genetics of 10 dog breeds say they’ve found the answer — and a path to many more.
While five genes have already been pinpointed as being responsible for dogs’ coats, leg size and more, the new research identifies 155 distinct locations in the animals’ genetic code that could play a role in giving breeds their distinctive appearances.
In the sharpei, the team found differences in a gene known as HAS2 which makes an enzyme known to be important in the production of skin.
“There was probably a mutation that arose in that gene that led to a really wrinkly puppy and a breeder said, ‘hey, that looks interesting, I’m going to try to selectively breed this trait and make more of these dogs’,” explained Joshua Akey from the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, told the BBC.
Akey and colleagues studied 32 wrinkled and 18 smooth-coated sharpeis and compared a specific stretch of their DNA with that of other breeds.
The team found four small, but significant, differences in the genetics of the two skin types of the sharpei versus the other breeds. These single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), as they are called, were located in the HAS2 gene.
The research has also identified other locations in the dog genome that can now be investigated further to understand better why pedigree animals look the way they do.
Akey and his colleagues reported their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 12th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: appearances, breeding, canine, characterisitcs, denome, distinctive, dna, dog, dogs, genes, johsua akey, physical, research, science, selective breeding, shar-pei, sharpei, study, traits, university of washington, wrinkles