Tuesday, 23 April 2013

dogs are hurt when we laugh at them

I have just read a great extract on The Pet Museum blog from a book published in 1871 by Caroline Bray:
* * *
The dog is of too fine a nature to be content with being fed and sheltered and combed and brushed. He must be made happy in his mind. For there is no doubt the dog has in some degree a mind and a conscience, as well as a loving disposition. He knows when he has done wrong, and slinks away with his tail between his legs, from shame, and not always from only the fear of a beating; and when he has done right he wags his tail and comes boldly capering up for the reward of only a caress or look of approval. He sees by his master's eye in a moment if he is pleased or angry with him, and cannot bear even to be laughed at. And even if he has been unjustly punished he bears no malice, but licks the hand that cruelly struck him, and is grateful for being again taken into favour.We ought to be very careful, therefore, not to be unjust to a dog. While we make him feel that he has a master and that he must obey, we must take great care not to be harsh with our dog when he is not conscious of having done wrong, but has perhaps only been following some of his natural instincts.We have often too much reason to blush before the honest creature who looks up in our face with such trust and reverence, as if we were something to be worshipped. We may well ask ourselves, Do we merit his worship? is our nature so true and guileless as his? are we so ready to forgive injuries, or so faithful in doing our duty?
 - Our Duty to Animals, Caroline Bray (London: S.W. Partridge & Co., 1871), pp. 109-10.  Caroline Bray, also known as Cara, was a close friend of George Eliot's.

One of the things in this piece that struck me was that dogs can't bear to be laughed at.

We do sometimes laugh at Penny, but I hope it's friendly, inclusive laughter, rather than mocking. I learned many years ago that dogs are hurt if we laugh unkindly at them. It was a real surprise to me, because at that stage I had not lived with a dog.

I was at a writing workshop in a friend's lounge room and five visitors - members of the group - had arrived and the six of us were busily discussing each other's pieces of text, with the resident black labrador lying under the table. When a latecomer bustled in, the dog leaped to his feet in surprise and barked loudly to alert us to the new arrival.

The whole group burst into loud laughter, because we thought it funny that he hadn't done anything to respond to the other five arrivals.

He was  hurt. His tail drooped between his legs and he slunk off to a corner of the room to recover.


Mitch and Molly said...

We absolutely agree with this! We know when hoomans are laughing with us or at us - it makes a huge difference!

Love ya lots,
Mitch and Molly

parlance said...

Mitch and Molly, you are a funny pair at times, but I know your human family would never hurt your feelings.