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Signs Point to Yes

Last Friday, I accidentally pulled a terrible trick on my sweet Lilly. I rushed around in the morning before an entire day of eldercare efforts, and I didn’t realize what Lilly assumed based on various visual clues until I stepped toward the front door to leave.

Tom and I offered our usual heading-out advice to the pups to “be good” and promised to “be back soon,” and all that. (P.S. You really aren’t supposed to make a big deal of leaving or coming home because it can create triggers for separation anxiety in susceptible dogs.)

Ginko, who stoically accepts his fate as a mostly home-bound boy, glanced at us from his position as Sofa Captain … likely wishing we would leave so that he could take a nap.

But, Lilly tried to follow us out the door as if it was the most natural and expected thing. She seriously had this look on her face that said, “See you later, Ginko!”

Only after I asked her to stay and saw the heartbreak in her eyes did I realize my mistake.

I had on the right shoes. My ponytail was tucked into a baseball cap. I was wearing ratty jeans.

All signs, in Lilly’s eyes, pointed to yes. Lilly’s internal Magic 8 Ball had already decided that an adventure was afoot.

You see, I was dressed in Mommy & Lilly outing clothes.

The entire morning she assumed based on her well-honed observations of my habits and various visual cues that whatever I had planned included her.

I’ve been apologizing ever since.

It’s an important lesson, I think, in exactly what keen observers our dogs are. Dogs recognize patterns. They can group visual and other cues together and make educated assumptions about what comes next. They are ALWAYS paying attention, whether we realize it or not.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I’m a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles … and, of course, all things pet related.

I don’t just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Cathy - February 16, 2010

I know exactly what you are talking about. Kes, whose favorite activity is agility, just finished a 4 day weekend of fun and frolic. I rose this morning to my normal Tuesday 6 am ‘go to the pool and swim laps’ routine….but she read it as ‘another day of fun and frolic at agility’. EEK. She was bouncing around until I went out the garage door, with me apologizing from the time my foot hit the floor getting out of bed. Sigh. She does forgive….. but it’s mom who slides through the day with ‘I’m sorry’ as the day’s mantra.

    Roxanne Hawn - February 16, 2010

    I can totally see that. She got into the routine quickly. So good to see you Saturday. Thanks for the hugs and support.

Sam - February 16, 2010

I know this feeling. My heart sinks when Marge goes over to her leash, thinking she’s going to follow me out the door. Due to all the bad weather that has decreased our number of walks, that’s happened a lot lately.

KB - February 15, 2010

I’ve done the same thing to K, but in a different way. I put on my ‘dog clothes, and she assumes a hike is afoot. Then, I lead her toward the car. Well, K does NOT like riding in the car. As a youngster, she’d hide when she thought that a car ride was the next event on the schedule. Now, she tolerates it… but she’d far prefer a hike straight from the house.

Thinking of it this way makes me realize that K is probably thrilled with my driving ban!

Don’t worry, Lilly will forgive you in an instant. You’re her sun, moon, and stars!

D.K. Wall & The Thundering Herd - February 15, 2010

Ah yes. When I head to work, the dogs barely raise their heads (actually, some don’t). Sort of a, “see ya later.” Approach. But if I am “hiking” clothes, they are totally expecting to go.

Kevin Myers - February 15, 2010

Very good post. I wrote a similar post a while back about my dogs being able to tell their immediate future by the shoes my wife and I wear.

Susan - February 15, 2010

How very, very true. One of your best, most perceptive posts.

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