Thursday, August 07, 2008

Human-Canine Emotions and Bonds

Okay, so I got up late this morning and didn't really get rolling until nearly lunchtime. DH performed his normal earlier morning routine with the canine kids (greeting, feeding, pottying, exercising) then crated them when he left for work so I could sleep (I had a late night last night).

So I came downstairs, let Pinot, Ridge, Kenya, and Tuc out of their crates (Elsie and visiting Gracie aren't crated), and took them all outside to romp for a while. The weather today is much cooler (relatively speaking), so the canine crew could run and retrieve with me as much as they wanted without my worrying about heat issues.

(pictured l to r front: Kenya seated left, then Gracie who's just visiting and standing just left and behind Ridge, then Ridge seated front, Pinot seated right; and in far rear, Elsie)

These next shots are a just a variety of action shots from this morning (again, the lighter, wider, longer-haired-though-she's-been-shaved Golden Retriever is my sister's dog, Gracie; the rest are our gang):

Then we came in, and I needed to get some work done, so I set myself up on my laptop in the kitchen, sat down at the kitchen table, and turned on the TV for background noise (the dogs seem to settle more when the TV is on... I'm not sure why that is).

Of course, while I worked, I enjoyed my usual companions nearby (didn't want to crate them as they'd been crated all morning).

This morning, instead of dispersing between the kitchen, family room, and kennel room, however, they all seemed to want to be close (sorry, no picture of the following): Elsie leaned her whole weight against my right leg and thigh (remember I'm seated at the kitchen table); Pinot (yes, PINOT), sat and plunked her head (it's full weight) oh my left thigh; Tuc sprawled under my chair like usual; Kenya put her wiggly self right up against Pinot and the table leg, and Gracie (my sister's Golden Retriever who is staying with us while DS is in CO) plopped down on top of my right foot.

So that's the image: me buried in canine buddies (Ridge, our official couch potato since Baxter left, was snoozing on the loveseat in front of the TV with his head resting on the sofa's arm, just like the Boos used to do).

Okay.. so you have the picture?

Now guess what comes on TV?

When I turned the TV on, I apparently tuned in during a commercial break from the movie Eight Below (the movie tells the true story of sled dogs who, during an emergence evacuation, get left behind in Antarctica during a massive winter storm and are left to survive on their own for something like six months).

When the commercial ended, while I sat among my canine kids, the movie returned to the scene where during white-out conditions one of the sled dogs free-slides over a rocky cliff, and the remaining six dogs run down to check on their injured pack-mate. Of course, they all lie down together with the injured dog (puppy pile!) to ride out the storm. When they awaken, completely buried in the snow, said pack-mate is dead.

The dogs then react: puzzled, grief-stricken, worried, reluctant to leave their friend behind...

The emotion the producers captured in this movie's animals is incredible: concern, compassion, grief, pain, joy, team spirit, servanthood, devotion, courage, internal conflict.... you name it.

So, anyway... here I am, literally knee-deep in the bodies of my canine crew, being loved to pieces by their presence, and this sled dog expires in the snow.

How many times have I seen this movie? (several) How well did I know what was going to happen? (quite well) How deeply did I understand that no dogs were hurt or perished in the making of the movie and that this was truly just a movie? (I understood completely... I hadn't forgotten...I knew all the dogs shown were just fine in real life).

But I still blubbered like a baby.

I mean blubbered. Really blubbered.

Like some emotional valve blew.

So there's Pinot, head on my thigh, looking up at me all worried (she wouldn't leave my side). Elsie starts pawing me. Kenya rolls over and puts her head on my left foot (Gracie had already claimed my right foot).

Tuc just snored.

What is it about dogs and emotions, especially between them and their humans?

There's just something universal about canine faces; their expressions, regardless of breed, capture and communicate feeling far beyond that of spoken language.

And I think that's what made me cry. The sled-dogs' faces in the movie -- their emotions, facial expressions, body language, and communication -- could have been those of my gang here. That could've been MY crew in the snow -- that's how ridiculously well I identified with the emotion in this flick.

Canine faces are human. And their depictions of emotion are universal -- across breeds. So we humans react.

I don't get it.

Maybe I'm just hormonal (hehe). But, doggone it, every time I see this movie I cry like a baby.

And then the canine crew gets all worried about me and tries to make me feel better (each in her own way).

I guess we all need a little help from our friends, eh? Even the four-footed kind.

I'm okay now... been slobbered back into reality by zealous canine kisses. :o)

But... man... did that ever catch me off guard!

So how many of YOU can watch Eight Below without crying?

'Til next time,

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Rachel said...

I have never seen that movie but I alway cry in Air Bud at the part when the little boy leaves the dog on the island. So sad!

josilynexo said...

I own that movie on DVD. I've seen it several times as well, and cry every single time! Great movie though.

kayceebeebee said...

I had a really hard time watching it for the first time. I had to pause it and call my son to make sure if I continued to watch it that the dogs would be okay. I'm a crybaby when it comes to animals getting hurt. I cannot watch it so it was a tough movie for me but I got thru it and it was good.

One time my son's yellow lab jumped off the dock at the cabin and hurt himself somehow against the dock poles. He started yelping and initially I was okay but after a while of hearing him cry I actually had to go to the back bedroom in the cabin and cover my head with pillows. Bull, the dog, was fine after a little while and we never did see any injury on him but it was scary while it was happening and I felt so sad for my son watching his dog in pain.

Jamie said...

Oh Joan, I have never seen that movie and I'm not sure I could handle it. Just reading your description of that scene is making me tear up. I tear up at the thought of when we will have to say goodbye to one of our girls forever.

Bentley said...

So tell me BFF Joan...what were you doing up so late? They're great glasses aren't they! LOL ;)

Yes, it is a great movie and I remember the scene you discribed...sniff sniff. I don't think I could watch it again. An Artic Tale is another movie that had me blubbering with the scenes of the polar bears. It really is quite amazing to see the human like emotions and actions in these animals. My little guy (who may think he's a lab in his little white 9lb frame)grabs my heart everytime with his eyes full of expression.

Theresa said...

That one is so hard to watch, but let's go back farther - can you watch Old Yeller without bawling? Not me - I cry at 101 Dalmations - the cartoon version even!

Joan said...

Rachel, Josily, KC, Jamie, BFF, and Theresa...

Looks like I'm not the only one who cries watching animal movies. Lol... I don't feel so silly now.


So far, the movies you've all mentioned that make you cry are:

--Air Bud
--Eight Below
--Arctic Tale
--101 Dalmations

And... the tear jerker of all tear jerkers... Old Yeller.

Others for me include (yes, Theresa, I bawled during Old Yeller) and...

--Lassie (the original)
--Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (the first one)
--Benji (the original)
--My Dog Skip
--Where the Red Fern Grows
--Chips(?), The War Dog, and
--Babe (well, he's a pig who thinks he's a dog)

I can watch any of these multiple times and still cry.

Care to add any others to the list?


Christine said...

That is so amazing! I have always wanted a dog that would sense my emotions/mood, but it's yet to happen. Still love my lab even if he's oblivious ;)

I cry over animal movies all the time, you're definitely not alone.