Rocky. Peyton. Sophie. Cakes. Oliver.
These are just a few of the dogs who have touched my life
I know I loved them, but did they love me?
Well. Sophie, a standard poodle, pooped in my brother’s room and chewed up his baseball glove when he was mean to me.
Rocky, a German shepherd-Labrador-Doberman mix, was very obedient with minimal training, became upset when his people argued, and generally exhibited a highly developed moral character. There is no question in my mind Rocky was as capable of love as any human I’ve known. I believe he loved us.
Cakes, a strong-willed bullmastiff whose normal demeanor was a sort of studied guilelessness, tipped his hand and showed me he cared what I thought by frolicking in an uncharacteristically winsome manner when he knew I was mad at him for some infraction.
Peyton, a Doberman, was just a sweetie pie, as some dogs are.
I don’t think Oliver loved me. I don’t think this irascible Airedale loved anyone. He was kind of the Greta Garbo of dogs -- he just wanted to be left alone.
Of course, these are highly subjective interpretations of canine motives, but as most people who love dogs know, human-canine relationships are more complex than a simple matter of providing food in exchange for affection.
Now there is scientific evidence that backs that up.
A dog lover and neuroscientist who has studied the issue of dogs’ motives has found that in most cases, dogs are as motivated by food as by praise. About 20 percent of dogs care more about praise than treats.
Besides his findings about what motivates them, the testing Berns did on about 90 dogs showed that canines use corresponding parts of their brains to solve problems, and that facial recognition is hardwired, not taught – something we didn’t know before.
But back to the love.
Almost anyone with a dog in their lives can attest (some gushingly) to dogs’ capacity for unconditional love. I visited the Sam Combs dog park in West Sac, where I found no lack of witnesses willing to present evidence of their dogs’ love for them.
West Sac resident Dianerik Ramirez is sure her pit bull mix, Bane, loves her.
Not only is he highly responsive to her moods and attitudes, he displays concern for her well-being.
“There have been moments when I have not felt my best, and he comes to sit with me or comes to lick my face,” she said.
Rena Duran of Arden-Arcade said her dog Monte, a Chihuahua-terrier mix, doesn’t just love her – he loves most other people and dogs.
When Monte goes with Duran to pick up her daughter at school, he’s a big favorite with her classmates and basks in their attention.
Wednesday afternoon at the dog park, Monte, a tiny scrap of a dog, cheerfully ran up to Bane, easily 10 times his size, asking to play. When Bane indicated disinclination, Monte scampered off without appearing to bear a grudge.
Ginger Styrsky arrived with Murphy, a 10-year-old German shepherd-Labrador mix.
Styrsky feels certain Murphy loves her.
Since he was a puppy, she has fed and cared for him. He is bonded to her.
He shows affection in typical canine fashion.
“Sometimes he nuzzles, sometimes he cries. He rubs against you; comes over and shows you his butt so you’ll pet it – it’s true love,” she said, laughing.