As you know, Sonnyboy is trying to learn to roll down the hill, for some reason known only to him. We have had a few successful rolls, but they are terrifying. Except today he positioned himself on a less-steep part of the hill and rolled down it and then looked at me with a big doofy grin and came over for head scratches.
I’m trying to understand this without anthropomorphizing it too much, but I also find this incredible. Not the rolling part. I can’t even be sure he really understood he was on a less-steep part of the hill. And I’ve just taken as a given that he for some reason wants to learn to roll down the hill and I am, in effect and pun intended, rolling with it.
But why would he come for head-scratches? I don’t want him to roll down the hill (I also don’t not want him to roll down the hill, of course. I’m just a curious bystander to the rolling.) so I’m not giving him any verbal commands. Sometimes he rolls behind me, so I don’t even think he’s picking up on something visual I’m doing. I’m not cuing him to roll down the hill, I don’t think. It’s purely something he does for himself that only involves me because I’m on the other end of the leash and need to try to keep him from tangling himself in it.
But somehow, for some reason, he must think that rolling down the hill is rewarding to us. He must think that I would want to pat his head in this moment because I am pleased. Maybe? I definitely feel like the thing that is happening is some sense of “we” between he and me is being created. He’s doing this thing that makes him happy and that must please us.
I think that Sonnyboy only understands at a very rudimentary level when we’re displeased with him. And even then it has to be immediate and loud. “No!” when he steps on your foot will get him to back off from stepping on your foot. But “no!” when you find him eating garbage seems only to confuse him.
So, I’m fascinated by this, because it seems to be some level of recognition that if he does this thing, I will have feelings about it.