Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

I'm very interested in Sheba's interior life, what she thinks about during the day, how much she understands about what's going on, that sort of thing. I mean, I don't think she has particularly complex thoughts or much self-awareness, but I think she does have a sense of different things happening at different times, and I think she does some things for "reasons," in the way that a person would talk about reasons.

There's obviously no way to ask her what she's thinking directly, but with some stuff, you don't really have to. When she shows up in the doorway at 10 'til 10 in the morning, and stares pointedly at me, it's not that much of a stretch to think that this is because she wants to go outside (we usually begin the walk between 10 and 10:30 AM). When I make eye contact and start walking toward her, and she starts thumping her tail on the floor/couch, I figure it's probably because she knows the odds are good that I'll pet her, and the possibility pleases her.

Once in a while, she'll bring a toy into the office, look at me pointedly, and bring the toy as close to my hand as she can get it, over and over, until I try to take it away, and the tug-of-war she wanted ensues. And if I let her tug it away from me, she'll bring it back and try to put it in my hand again.

It's not rocket science, okay, but it shows some understanding of the way things work, at least within her fairly predictable world.

Which is why I'm curious about this:

Yesterday afternoon while I was running around watering stuff, Sheba collected four of "her" objects together and was sitting, just sitting, with her paws resting around them. This sort of thing has happened before, though it's not usually that many objects, and she's doesn't usually plonk down directly in my way when she does it. And ordinarily they're kind of strewn throughout the house: it's not like she normally tries to keep them all together. So this is kind of new. What does it mean? She wasn't playing with them, just collecting and then I guess guarding (?) them. Perhaps this is the German shepherd in her making its presence known -- herding, guarding. But that's only sort of an explanation. I want to know what she was thinking.

Just asking questions for which there are no good answers again. It's a thing I do.


Diana said...

Sheba's collection reminds me of one of my dogs, Piper (a Keeshound/ Sheltie mix). When she was younger she would create piles in the yard. Piles of sticks and small rocks and pine cones. Then she would sit and chew on one of the sticks. I was never sure why she was doing it. Now that she's older and less playful her piles have decreased in size and number. Now she'll gather two or three sticks and sit and chew them. That is, unless there is something to bark at :)!

Tigerdawn said...

There's a book called 'Inside of a Dog' by Alexandra Horowitz. I highly recommend it. It is a great read and answers many of the questions you're asking. I liked it so much I bought it but it is probably available at the library.

Anonymous said...

I had a wonderful dog - substantially an Australian Shepherd - who showed his herding heritage by collecting toys, old bones, pieces of antler, and other precious objects at his special place. He was obviously herding them because if I caused one to stray he carefully returned it to his "flock". My daughter's Bearded Collies (also herding dogs) herded family and visitors. No lagging behind when walking with those dogs!
Does Sheba have any herding dog genes in her heritage?

mr_subjunctive said...


Officially, we don't know (the shelter had picked her up as a stray, so there's no breeding history), but the shelter guessed she's black lab / German shepherd, possibly with a small amount of a third thing in there somewhere. So yeah, a little bit.

Jenn said...

Or she may be 'babysitting' - maybe?

Anonymous said...

My friend's rescued pitbull does this obsessively, in the house and out in the yard. She tries to locate her piles in hidden places. She is obviously not a herding breed, and I always thought it was a parenting thing.

Bom said...

Maternal instincts surfacing?

Anonymous said...

She is sitting like a schnauzer! They do that odd splayed position with their hind legs when they lie down. We have what we think is a schnauzer-setter mix, and he sits like that too.

Of course, that doesn't really explain the object herding, but it might give you a hint about her genetics. She doesn't really look like a schnauzer, though.