Okay, listen, for me to tell you this story, you’re going to have to accept some things that may be upsetting to pet lovers. In the morning, I give the cats wet cat food. I put some on a plate for the new kitty (who, no, at this point is not new) on the counter near her food bowl and leave a little for Old Grouchy Pants in the can, which I set on the floor, near the tipped over bag of cat food, because Old Grouchy Pants prefers not to get off the floor unless it involves getting on the couch.
They eat their wet cat food while I walk the dog and, when we get back, he eats whatever’s left in the can on the floor. And, sometimes, if he thinks I’m not looking, he stands on his hind legs and eats whatever’s left on the plate. But often that goes sliding around the counter and he can’t get to it.
Also, when the dog wants something, he leaps near it. So, like, if he wants to go for a walk, he goes to the back door and leaps up and down. Or if he wants to go for a car ride, he goes to the car door and leaps up and down. Or if he wants to come inside, he leaps up and down at the door.
That seems pretty straight-forward–the thing that usually happens here, I want it to happen again, so I will do my leaps.
But today he was jumping up and down kind of in the middle of the kitchen, looking at me expectantly, and I had no idea what he thought should happen there. He had his breakfast. He had a well-licked can of cat food by his feet.
Folks. Folks. He then picked up the empty can of cat food and brought it over by the counter and leaped with the can in his mouth. And, indeed, the new kitty had left a pile of wet cat food on her plate (no cat seemed to care for that flavor). Which, yes, I think put on the floor for him because I am not a monster.
But what the fuck?! Maybe it’s just the same as other leaps, but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like we’ve taken a step forward. Like, he understood that I wasn’t saying “no, you can’t have that,” but that I literally didn’t know what “that” was and so he did the logical thing of showing me what he wanted.
Is this dog ever not going to surprise me?
In unrelated news, I’ve started to join this afghan together.
I picked a continuous join that echoes the lacy parts of the motif that I love. Both because I love that lacy part and because I’m not convinced the hexagons are really the same size and it felt like I was going to get a lot of pulling and buckling that might have made me unhappy. I didn’t want to work this much on something that was, up until this point, so pleasing, to be unhappy with the end result. This gives each hexagon a little room to be not exactly the same size as its neighbors.
It’s small, too, which kind of annoys me. I want an afghan that, when I’m sitting on the couch, will cover me from shoulder to feet. Ideally, I want an afghan that, when I’m sick, I can wrap around me like a coccoon of warmth and healing. I don’t know about this size.
But in general, I love it and am very, very happy with how it is going.
My parents once had a beagle who was on prednisone, and there is no hungrier animal in the world than a beagle on predinsone. They lived in a split level house. One night we were all sitting in the basement when we see the beagle up at the top of the stairs with her empty food dish in her mouth. She made eye contact, then flung the empty dish down the stairs. And we were like, well, that was one step for interspecies communication. And beagle tool use, in a way.
I had a cat once who, in addition to the usual cat meowing, developed 4 distinct meows: I want food, I want water, I want to go outside, I want to come inside. I mean, I could be sitting in the living room and she would come up and do one of the meows so I would know whether to head for the kitchen or the door. But I never understood how a cat that smart could be silly enough to develop a meow for “open the door and let me in”. I mean, if the door is closed, and she’s outside it meowing, what else could it possibly mean? Why be so specific?
Wow, he’s a really interesting fellow, isn’t he? His development got so stunted, and yet he gets much further than anyone would expect by continually applying what he has and being just plain determined to learn.
Plus, he keeps trying with you because of who you are. You take him seriously. You pay him the respect of believing he does what he does for reasons, not out of random pet silliness. That spurs him to learn, because he has someone who he knows will believe him.
nm, right before I got my current cat, I read that researchers had determined that cats could learn about as much human speech as a smart two-year-old human could, so I’ve been milking that for all it’s worth. She’s taught me quite a few “words” on her end, and she’s learned several dozen words and phrases that I use. She’s kind of on the genius end of the intelligence scale for a cat, but I still see the limitations, and they’re not that different from the limits of cognition in a human toddler.
Like, I taught her that my saying, “Bird!” in a particular tone means I see a bird right now and if she looks where I’m looking, she’ll see it too. But sometimes she gets so excited that she comes racing in, runs up to me, and stares at me for a moment like she thinks I have the bird, and I have to point out the window. It looks just like what you’d get when a human toddler comes racing in that excited.
For a while there, she tried working on the hypothesis that since if I say, “Bird!” and she comes running, and look, there’s a bird, then maybe what that means is that I can summon birds. She knew what a bird feeder was when I first installed one, so she was already clear I did have some power over making birds come. So she’d look out at one of the bird feeders, and chirp, “Bird! Bird!” at me hopefully and expectantly, waiting for me to make a bird appear. We’ve now settled on the fact that I don’t summon birds directly, but do report them when I see them. Right now she’s working on developing a way to politely suggest I go out and fill a particular feeder.
So that level of cognition, plus their hearing being far, far sharper than ours, makes it not surprising to me that your cat thinks you can hear her through the door. From the cat’s point of view, it’s at least worth trying, to see if you can learn to hear that request through the door. They’re patient experimenters when it comes to trying to make us understand them, so they’ll work it for a while if they really want us to learn a new “word”.
I know he doesn’t care, but it really upsets me that he’s such a neat dog and he could have been quite smart all along if someone had given a shit about him. He would have been a great dog for a kid on a farm. Or a teenager who needed someone to goof around with.
And he’s got to be eight or nine now. I keep waiting for him to start to seem old, I try to keep in mind that he is old for a dog his size. But when there’s always new stuff going on with him, it’s hard to perceive him as old.
I try to do right by him, but he deserved an active family and it pisses me off that, instead, he got tied to a tree and then stuck with me. But I am also very, deeply glad he’s my dog. Even when he sometimes pisses me off.
nm, my apologies, I misread what you said before. If she thought she needed a specific meow for being outside and wanting in, well, that fits. They’re smart, much more so than we think, but still limited. Intelligence on a par with a human toddler is quite a lot of intelligence, but still limited.
B, yeah, he clearly was born with amazing potential and it’s infuriating that it got stunted, given the loads of it still there. At least he now has you, a person who takes his growth seriously and believes it is important. I’m not sure the importance of your fundamental respect for him can be overstated.
I’m really loving SonnyBoy’s continuing to brain! He is a thinking sort of dog. The most my dogs have ever done is the ‘run outside barking so whoever is in the chair will get out and the first barker can get the chair’. But I also wonder if it isn’t because they’ve always had other dogs to relate to and not my undivided attention?