In the news:
PORTLAND, Ore. — A fiercely protective, elderly mutt is up for a national hero award for pestering her owner in the hours before he had a heart attack and then barking for help once it struck. Ceili, a 15-year-old Lab-mix, usually spends much of her day lounging in her home. But one steamy day last August, she clung to her owner, Danny Fincher, trotting behind him from room to room, sometimes blocking his path. When he sat down, she licked his arms and legs and then jumped on his easy chair, sniffing his breath. “She was driving me nuts,” he said. That evening, when he headed upstairs to bed, feeling knotted with indigestion, she nipped at his feet and pulled off a shoe, trying to prevent him from climbing the stairs. Moments later, Fincher suffered the heart attack. The dog ran into a back room where his wife was watching television. Barking furiously, Ceili darted between the two until Jewell checked on her husband and whisked him to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. Thanks in part to Ceili, Fincher was treated within 20 minutes of his attack. “There’s no question she saved my life,” said Fincher, 62. For her actions, Ceili was nominated along with nine other dogs for a “Dogs of Valor” award sponsored by the nationwide Humane Society of the United States.Dog Doctors
seem to know a lot more than they "should".
Applying basic Darwinian thinking, it makes sense for an altruistic social animal to detect something wrong with her nest-mates, and to tell them about it.
But: Dogs don't have heart attacks,
so the internal symptoms and smells couldn't be part of their instinctive repertoire of knowledge. Apparently they do have arrhythmias and gradual congestive heart failure, but not infarcts.
And since the dog can't know the recommended response to an infarct, how does Ceili know that Danny should stand still, shouldn't climb the stairs?
I'm starting to wonder if dogs have a connection with something beyond physical knowledge, a way to eliminate time and imagine alternative futures.
Less mystical explanation is that Danny's own brain knew the symptoms of a heart attack and knew he was heading for one, but his conscious mind was ignoring the warnings and attributing the pain to "indigestion". Ceili could read Danny's unconscious thoughts. This is still outside the Darwinian hypothesis, but there's plenty
of evidence that dogs read our thoughts all the time, not just in emergencies.
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Personal experience with canine telepathy, though not nearly as dramatic: In hippie days I had a strange dog named Piggles. She was part border collie, with all the stubborn intensity of that breed. She seemed to be disobedient and incorrigible. Much later I realized that Piggles was actually being perfectly loyal and obedient.
mind was full of hippie shit: peace, love, environmentalism, feminism, etc, etc. Piggles growled and bit some of the people that I "liked" for their ideological purity. This seemed like disloyalty. In fact she was trying to protect me from people I disliked
intensely at the unconscious and visceral level. I was too full of shit to realize this at the time.