How Smart?

I live with a dog who is brilliant. Really. Kiera’s reasoning powers are on display everyday. (Graidy’s smart but doesn’t quite have the same wattage.) So when I come across articles that imply our animals might actually have consciousness and be able to think, I’m inclined to roll my eyes and think, Where have you been all your life–certainly not around animals. Because if you were around animals, you’d already know this.

A recent article of this ilk, What is Your Pet Thinking by Sharon Begley, asks the question: If animals think (which numerous scientific studies have concluded many times over), what responsibility does that put on humans for the treatment of animals? An important question to be asked and deeply contemplated, to be sure. But what captured me about this particular article was a vignette Begley shared:

From the day they brought her home, the D’Avella’s black-and-white mutt loathed ringing phones. At the first trill, Jay Dee would bolt from the room and howl until someone picked up. But within a few weeks, the D’Avellas began missing calls. When the phone rang, their friends later told them, someone would pick up and then the line would go dead.

One evening, Aida D’Avella solved the mystery. Sitting in the family room of her Newark, N.J., home, she got up as the phone rang, but the dog beat her to it. Jay Dee lifted the receiver off the hook in her jaws, replaced it and returned contentedly to her spot on the rug.

Now any animal might accidentally figure out that “attacking” the source of irritation would end the problem. But to perform the specific and very deliberate act of replacing the receiver? This just cracks me up! I suggest the D’Avellas get a new phone with a different ring tone.

Most everyone has “astonishing intelligence” animal stories. I’d love to hear about your brainiacs.

7 thoughts on “How Smart?”

  1. I’ve read a lot about parrots being incredibly smart. Don’t know about parakeets or goldfish. Though they sure are pretty to look at and soothing to the soul.

  2. I’m afraid we only have two goldfish and a parakeet, neither of which have wowed me with their analytics. But I’ve heard lots of stories about dogs and cats. And octopi. Someone was trying to tell me that octopi are supposed to be extremely intelligent. Not sure how they figure that but not having any evidence to the contrary I’m willing to go with it :)

  3. Actually, your Morena is at least trilingual, when you include her being fluent in dog. :)

    You’ve asked a question that plagues a lot of dog people. I’ll put a post together on this for you in the next few days.

  4. I’m convinced they think, reason, and feel.

    My dog’s bilingual! :) I’m serious: I speak to her in Spanish and my boyfriend in English, and she understands all commands perfectly. She also learned the names of her toys and can retrieve the one you ask her to.

    Karen, one question: How can one curb a dog’s separation anxiety when the animal has to be left alone in the house for a few hours (3-4 hrs. tops)? I leave my Morena with toys, food, water, a secure place to “hide” (her crate, which she’s normally very comfortable going into). However, she still gets into mischief and/or has “accidents” (which she NEVER has when I’m there). I’d love to hear your input.

  5. Sunshine, you’re very welcome.

    Jan, all the poodles I’ve known definately fall into the brilliant category! We’d actually looked at getting Cait a Poodle before we got Graidy. The timing was off for litters.

  6. My alpha Poodle can do inductive and deductive reasoning. You’re right. Anyone who doubts the ability of dogs to reason just hasn’t been around them.

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