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Dogs and "empathy"

2380 Views 32 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  XansArt
I'm not sure this will make any sense, but I will try to explain what I mean....

We lost our oldest, most awesome cat Thomas this morning. It was very sudden (heart failure due to a heart murmur we think), we got up to find him dead and of course we were very upset.

I realised I was unable to go and move him, so hubby called his dad to come and wrap him and move him. While we were waiting I decided I should at least clean up the urine around him. Pixie still hadnt' been out to pee, and despite me walking from the kitchen with paper towards the door to the backyard, she didn't follow me as usual to go outside. She just sat in the kitchen and watched me clean up. She didn't go over to sniff Thomas or anything. It was like she knew I was upset and she knew Thomas was dead and just kept her distance. On walks she always approaches dead animals.

So I did that, then went to my office to let Obi out of the crate to take them both out to pee. As soon as Obi spotted Thomas he ran straight up to him and started sniffing, he was told to leave it and we went outside.

Later on I also noticed that Pixie was staring at me a lot more than usual and seemed to understand that I was upset, while Obi seemed completely oblivious.

Pixie is a poodle x maltese, so typical lapdog, people oriented etc, while Obi is a terrier x. So just curious, and this is where I think I won't make sense, are lapdogs and the typical working breeds like poodles, labs, GSD's etc, more in tune with their humans than the more independent breeds? Like are they more sensitive to it, do they understand human stuff better? I hate to call it "empathy", but if I was going to use that word, do the working breeds and lapdogs have more empathy?

Just for the record, I'm not upset with Obi for not "caring", I never expected them to understand or care and I don't need them to. It was just something I noticed and was curious about.
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And just because he was awesome, here is Thomas:

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Thing is, I think generally Obi is the one that is more focused on me. He follows me everywhere and wants to be involved just for the sake of being involved. Like if I'm getting glasses and plates from other rooms, he runs ahead of me and sticks his head in the dishwasher just waiting for me. And when I get bird seed to go out to the aviary he runs ahead and waits by the aviary door. There's never anything in it for him, I never talk to him or pat him or anything, he just wants to be there.

But as far as "empathy" goes, I think Pixie has more of it. She seems to understand human emotions better in general.

Could just be the individual dogs, so it's interesting to see other people's experiences.

And yeah, I'm pretty sad about Thomas. Earlier I was running on adrenaline and disbelief. Now I'm just sad. He really was an awesome cat, not the smartest, but big personality, lots of charm and very friendly. One of a kind.
Here is an excerpt from an article about the subject of 'dog feelings' located at: http://mobile.dudamobile.com/site/d....dogbreedinfo.com/articles/dogsenses.htm#2113

Another example was a time when my husband and I were driving down the road with our two dogs in a van that did not have any windows in the back. The dogs were sleeping on the van floor. Suddenly our Pit Bull stood up and started growling. I was in the passenger seat and didn’t see or hear anything. My husband, on the other hand, was amazed. He had just passed a cop and for a split second thought he may have been speeding and at the exact moment he felt a chill of fear run down his spine, his dog had popped up from his curled up sleep and growled, not at us but toward the walls of the moving van. The dog had felt his fear and was jumping up in protection mode.

Izze was really good at sensing my moods, she would go into a heightened state of protection if I was feeling uneasy about a part of town we were in & if she didn't like someone, then I trusted her.
That's pretty cool. Obi does something similar and I never know how he knows. If I'm sitting at my computer staring at the screen, he will know instantly if I glance over at him. No matter what he's doing, rolling around, rubbing his face on his bed, asleep, he will instantly turn to look at me if I glance over at him. I have no idea how he detects me looking at him.
I am so sorry for your loss of Thomas. :hug: His raggedy ears tell a tale of a cat's life lived, eh? :fencing:
Yep :) Both his canines were broken too. I adopted him as a stray in 2006, so all the injuries are from before I got him. He was 13 when he died...

It still just seems surreal, surely Thomas can't die? And then I realise he did and then I get sad, and then I go back to not quite believing it.
That sense of unreality after a death is so weird and disorienting, isn't it? All those firsts, all those times where that loved one fit into our lives that are now empty spots, they trip you up, and make you run into that void all over again, and again. :( On the comforting side, it sounds like he had a full, long, and well-loved life. (I lost my Rowdy cat, also adopted as a stray and rather battered by life, but full of love and personality, just last month. I share your pain. :( )
That's a nice way to say it, I like that. Sorry about your cat :(
I remember the posts about Izze, so sorry :(

At feeding time I always catch myself thinking "where's Thomas?" because he's not eating with the others, and at night when we let some of them in I think "must let Thomas in so he doesn't get cold". Etc. Then I remember.
Thank you :) We have 5 other cats, so no plans of adding to the family any time soon. It does feel natural to get another cat though, I found myself toying with the idea of getting a kitten only hours after finding Thomas. I didn't even realise I had thought it until after. Not to replace him of course, but just because it seemed perfectly natural to get another cat.... It's hard to explain the though process behind it...

Today we visited the in laws for the first time since my FIL was here and wrapped Thomas for us, and it turns out Obi did do something quite out of character that day. I guess I was distracted, the cremation people had just arrived and we were talking about them taking Thomas away and they were giving us brochures. Apparently Obi sat on my FIL's lap for about 5 minutes while that was happening. Obi normally doesn't like anyone's lap but mine, and barely even tolerates being patted by other people, but that day he wanted to go up on his lap and sat there asking for pats and seemed to quite enjoy it. So I guess he did detect something out of the ordinary going on. His reaction was just different from Pixie's.
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