I found a really good story on DiscoveryNews.com about dogs and whether or not they actually feel empathy. If you talk to dog owners….especially people who are really into their dogs…..they will tell you YES…dogs knows when you are sad or upset…..
There really isn’t any SCIENTIFIC evidence…..rather than empathy, they may be experiencing “emotional contagion”, more of a knee-jerk reaction to various behaviors and other cues. For example, if you yawn, others near you, including dogs, might start to yawn too. No one is certain why this happens. Some scientists suspect it has to do with communicating levels of alertness and coordinating sleep schedules.
We have been experiencing empathy from our dogs lately…..this is a photo of my husband….recently diagnosed with cancer. You can read about it on our blog Little Dog Diaries. His dog LolaBelle has been constantly by his side….not that that is unusual in itself….they have a very special relationship…..but it’s obvious she has “ramped it up a notch” since Christmas time when he started exhibiting symptoms.
The behavior change we have noticed the most is her willingness to cuddle with me. Lola is the most wonderful dog ever….but she isn’t much of a snuggler…..imagine my disappointment when the “fluffy little dog” I dreamt of since a child grew up to be a tom boy and only be interested in playing and sharing sandwiches with her DAD. But again, the last 2 months we have noticed a change.
She wants me to pet her now. She sits on my lap. She lies on my head from time to time (that’s a DAD THING!) We attributed it to her “growing up” (she will be 5 in July)…….but hindsight indicates she knew something just wasn’t right……
My mother’s Westie Mix Lilly, spent days in my lap…..she just wouldn’t be denied…..that’s the terrier in her! But that dog INSISTED I hold her or she be allowed to snuggle by my side……This occured during the days we waited for the biopsy results……you can never convince me that dog didn’t know I was scared to death.
What do you think? Has your dog ever cried with you?