I don’t own a dog, I don’t want to own a dog right now, but I love dogs. I have cared for many dogs over the years for family and friends. We love to host them in our home. My kids love them too. I believe the right dog is a great addition to any family. Caring for a dog – properly – takes a lot of work and time, which is one of the reasons I don’t want a dog right now. Dogs are wonderful and loving friends, and the more time I spend around them the more I am sure of their sixth sense.
What do I mean by that? So, there are the basic five senses, shared by humans and many animals (including dogs). Those are the ability to see, hear, touch, taste and smell. The sixth sense is something almost impossible to describe. I see it as the ability to simply sense the unknown. Dogs have a special kind of intelligence and sensitivity that we take for granted, and the more time I spend with them the more I feel it.
There have been a number of special dogs in my life, all of whom have spent time at my house. All of them were very different, with their own quirks, and I was always intrigued by their means of communication with me and their level of intellect. That’s right, intellect.
The most special dog for me of course was Oscar. He came into our lives in March of 1999 and quickly became the love of my mother’s life (sorry Dad, it’s true). Oscar put his five basic senses to full use every day. He could see a bird high in the sky (in particular turkey vultures) and defend us mightily as he chased it away. He could hear sounds that no one around him could fathom and loved to cuddle up close to us when he took a snooze. Oscar’s sense of taste was most interesting, as I believe his favourite food was Challah bread, and there was nothing better than wet grass after a rainstorm, with all kinds of new smells to explore.
Oscar was the smartest dog I have ever met, and I think anyone who met him would agree. When he was a puppy I taught him how to sneeze when he wanted something, and he knew the name of all his toys. He wasn’t a fan of my parents’ collection of grandchildren, which we referred to as “things” around him. But Oscar somehow knew that these children were special, and he was always gentle around them. He just had this ability to sense things that always amazed me.
I was lucky to meet two of my mother-in-law’s dogs. Soho was a feisty mixed breed who had strong opinions about everyone. She was loving to those she loved and nasty to those she disliked. My mother-in-law’s current dog, Mu Shu, has some rage issues and doesn’t always play nice with other dogs. But I feel like Mu Shu possesses that sixth sense more than other dogs I have met. He is deeply protective of his family and is extraordinarily loyal.
Then there is Herzl, my sister’s crazy dog. No one will ever question Herzl’s incredible sense of hearing. A knock on the door or a doorbell ring on TV will send this canine into a hysterical fit. He definitely prefers to be around females. His favourite people seem to be my sister, my mother, me and Nessa (that’s right the baby). His love of Nessa is so strong that we often wonder if my little miracle baby could be the re-incarnation of Oscar. Herzl loved Oscar, and while he is not a fan of small children he has shown tremendous interest and loyalty to baby Nessa.
Other dogs have visited my house and stayed with my family over the years and left their impression on me. Scooby, a little daschund, liked to sleep head first under the covers in my bed, with his bum sticking out. Did he get better reception that way? Buddy was a hyperactive Havanese who made me realize why this breed is often known as a bedroom slipper on acid. Cody and Cammy were brothers with quirky personalities. Cody had a bit of a personality disorder and didn’t like people for the most part. But he was gentle and sweet around baby Matthew. I learned from Cody that babies and dogs both love repetitive behaviour. They played for hours together with a wet kong toy, and it never got old.
I think we often underestimate the intelligence and astuteness of dogs. No matter how hard I try to understand and explain their sixth sense I just can’t properly articulate it. The way they look at us, the way they snuggle with us and the way they communicate with us are expressions of their unique role in this world. I really do not want a dog of my own right now, but I look forward to welcoming many more into my home and learning about their sixth sense.