How Dogs Read Our Moods: Emotion Detector Found In Fido’s Brain : Shots – Health News : NPR

Recommended Reading: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/02/21/280640267/how-dogs-read-our-moods-emotion-detector-found-in-fidos-brain

I always suspected my dogs know and understand my moods. We always had dogs when I was growing up. In fact, in my family, there’s a famous story of the day I walked out of the house and the family dog followed me.

I was about two years old and my mother had been distracted by the phone or something, and I just walked out the front door…a sucker in my hand.

Now, I don’t remember this story, but I’ve heard it many times, and it goes something like this…

Our dog, Mike, part Doberman, followed me out the door. Down the street a bit, I encountered the neighbor dog. Mike was a protective dog. There are lots of stories of how he protected our property and us kids, but this one is near and dear to my heart because it showed how much Mike loved me.

Anyway, so I’m walking down the street with a giant sucker in my hand. I picture this as the classic rainbow sucker from images in the ’50s. Anyway, when I met the neighbor dog, I offered him a lick of my sucker. He appreciated that, but as any dog would, he didn’t just take a lick, he took the whole thing.

You can imagine my reaction: I cried.

That’s all it took for Mike to act. He attacked that dog. I guess that’s the point when one of my brothers intervened. We ended up paying a hefty vet bill for the neighbor’s dog, but Mike was just doing his job. He was watching over me when no one else was around. He reacted to my emotional distress.

The same thing happened when I went through chemotherapy…my dogs reacted to my emotional distress.

I would come home from sitting hours in that chair as medicine dripped into my veins and I would be exhausted and a feeling a little bit sick. My husband would put me into bed and close the door. He would sit in the living room, watching tv, and normally, the dogs would stay with him, but on chemo days, they were restless. I would hear them both at the bedroom door, sniffing and whining. Eventually, Matt would open the bedroom door and both dogs would jump on the bed and curl up next to me: Kita at my feet, Nikko at my head.

This was not normal behavior because they had their own beds and were normally not allowed on ours, but it proved pointless trying to keep them away on chemo days.

They would stay there while I napped no matter how long I was there. It was a great comfort to me, and now it’s nice to have some scientific evidence to support what I already knew: dogs sense emotions and they will react accordingly. And for me, it was exactly what I needed.

~ K

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