Two dog bones for two Boston Terriers. Gave one to Roscoe, the other to puppy Jack. Stepped out to my office, took a sip of tea, realized I’d forgotten to sweeten it, went back into the kitchen—and found puppy Jack distressed, searching to & fro; he’d lost his bone. Hmm. Scanning the room for the lost bone, I glanced over at Roscoe, who was looking back at me. Oh oh. Sitting still on the sofa. Not engrossed in his bone, eyes riveted on me. As I approached him, with concern in his eyes, and still looking at me, he casually—too casually—lifted his paw and placed it on his bone. Suspect. And then lo—next to him on the sofa just a foot or so away lay the other bone. Roscoe had snatched Jack’s bone and parked it on the sofa beyond the puppy’s reach.
“Ros-coooe.” He winced, eyes dripping guilt. He knew what he’d done, and now wondered whether he was in trouble, and how deeply. Would he lose both bones? “You’re not taking mine away too, are you father?”
From whence does this canine knowledge of wrong-doing spring? Instinct? The dog knew he’d done wrong. Is this a spiritual conscience of which CS Lewis spoke, an inborn understanding of what is fair and unfair? do dogs have a conscience? —and if yes, why then do they smell each others’ butts?
What makes us so sympatico with dogs?
It is so bizarre, so amusing—and so gratifying to take the absconded bone from Roscoe and give it back to puppy Jack, who received it with shiny-eyed gratitude and delight.