"Inside Of A Dog" A Book Review
The #1 New York Times Bestseller, INSIDE OF A DOG: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, by Alexandra Horowitz, explores just what it is that dogs know, and what it is that dogs think. Given that the author is a cognitive scientist, the book contains lots of current scientific research, as well as personal reflection, and history.
The book also contains the transcript of an interview with the author; a detailed index; and a lengthy section entitled, "Notes and Sources." I especially appreciate this resource, as I like having primary source material referenced. Periodically throughout the book you will also find whimsical little pencil sketches of pooches in various poses. The book is a nice mix of hard data and heartfelt commentary.
While the book takes on our tendency to attribute human qualities to dogs, the good news is that the author gives us accurate, empirically based insights with which to replace our common misconceptions.
Dog people know that pooches have a highly sensitive sense of smell. But Horowitz goes into great detail about the anatomy and physiology of this amazing ability. Explaining the "vomeronasal nose" of dogs, she also delves into how and why dogs can smell what they do. And while for us, our world is foremost a seeing one, for dogs it is a sniffing one. Howoritz writes, "Imagine if each detail of our visual world were matched by a corresponding smell. Each petal on a rose may be distinct, having been visited by insects leaving pollen footprints from faraway flowers...A burst of chemicals marks where a leaf was torn...And time is in those details: while we can see one of the petals drying and browning, the dog can smell this proces of decay and aging." So dogs not only smell the faintest and most minute traces of all the obvious things. Incredibly, they have the remarkable ability to also smell emotions, disease and the passage of time.
About communication, there is a section entitled, "Whimpers, Growls, Squeaks, and Chuckles" where Horowitz states, "The paradigmatic dog sound is the bark, but barks do not form the preponderance of most dogs' daily noisemaking, which includes high and low sounds, incidental sounds, even howls and chuckles. High-frequency sounds - cries, squeals, whines, whimpers, yelps, and screams - occur when the dog is in sudden pain or needs attention." On the other end of the pain-pleasure spectrum she explains that low moans or grunts represent a kind of "dog purr."
As a household with three doggies, each very much with their own personalities, the low moan is common. It is a sure sound when I am rubbing ears. And then there are those moments when no sound, no noise, can be especially endearing. As Horowitz observes, "There is no awkwardness in a shared silent moment with a dog: a gaze from the dog on the other side of the room; lying sleepily alongside each other. It is when language stops that we connect most fully."
Taking walks, romping in the yard and playing tug-of-war is always great fun. But having my canine buddies nearby, sharing with me the deep silence of our property, especially as I read or write, is also a very special kind of communion. And this book offers valuable information and insights to help enhance our understanding of our canine companions.
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