Do our dogs know us better than we know ourselves?

For many years I have known that we have a special bond with our dogs, but there are still times when they do things we are not entirely sure why.
Dogs have been used for years to assist and monitor people with medical conditions – from assistance dogs for the disabled that do jobs their owners cannot do, to dogs that let their owners know the door bell has rung or the phone is ringing. There are even dogs that empty washing machines and help their owners get dressed and wake them up when the alarm goes off.
There are also the PAT dogs – Pets As Therapy. These dogs are owned by people from all walks of life. The dogs have to go through a process to ensure they have the correct temperament to visit old people’s homes, schools, hospitals and hospices.
These dogs do an invaluable service, often visiting people who for many years had their own pets but due to health reasons have had to move into a care home environment. It has been proven that these visits do, in fact, give a new life to the people they visit.
My Golden Retriever was a gentle boy: he would sit by the beds/chairs of many elderly residents in both care homes and hospitals, and sometimes these people who had not spoken in months would start to talk … to him, not to us!
He would cope with anything that was thrown at him – not literally – but there were occasions where he would get brushed, have scent put behind his ears and even have talcum powder sprinkled over him as if he was a new born baby!
Simba was a very important part of these people’s lives and he always seemed to have a ‘smile’ for each and every one.
Simba also had a strange habit … he would sniff and sniff everyone he met. We put it down to him being inquisitive, but one day we changed this opinion. When a friend visited us, he sniffed her relentlessly and would not leave her alone. After some time of this, I decided to put him in the kitchen to give my friend a rest.
My friend then told me about her visit to the hospital a couple of days prior. She had been confirmed as having breast cancer and the side where the cancer was was the same area that Simba would not move away from.
Having found this out, on my next visit to the care home I discussed this with the care assistant. She told me the two ladies Simba always made an extra fuss over did in fact have cancer – it amazed me that my boy had this amazing ability.
As you all know, we have two dogs: Secret a Portuguese Water Dog and Daliha a Portuguese mix breed. Both are mummy’s girls and will lie on my feet, knees, shoulders … in fact if I sit they decide I am their sofa!
But on November 4 last year they did something amazing. Ian was working on the computer and the girls were fast asleep on their bean bags.
Around 2pm, Ian said he had a pain in his upper body. We assumed it was heartburn from sitting hunched over the computer.
After about 10 minutes, the girls got up and sat on his feet under the table – something they never do. He was surprised by their actions.
After about fifteen minutes he said he needed to stand up as the pain was spreading. He stood up and the girls instantly started to jump up at him, run around his feet and generally get in his way. He sat in his chair and they would not move. He tried to get up and they followed him. I told them to come to me. By this time, Ian was in a lot of pain and he said he was going to lie down. At that moment, the girls went into their indoor kennels and lay down. The doors were open but they would not move.
I rang for the ambulance. When the paramedics arrived, I came into the apartment to show them where Ian was. They assessed him and said he was going to the hospital. There was some coming and going, them bringing a chair for Ian, bags with medications and a portable ECG machine.
After a few minutes they were taking Ian into the ambulance. I went back to our apartment to let the girls out of their kennels and was totally amazed to see that they had not moved a muscle. Normally we would have the usual chaos when we have visitors – Daliha barking and Secret running up to visitors wanting to give them kisses.
It took me a few minutes to coax them out after the ambulance left. Both girls stood looking outside towards the gate and there they stayed for some time – sitting, looking and waiting for daddy to come back.
Ian was kept in hospital for four days having had a massive heart attack and having a stent fitted. For each night he was in hospital, Secret decided she would sit on his side of the bed, and I went to sleep with her sitting and looking at daddy’s pillow. I would wake to find her in the same place. I do not know if she lay down or moved when I was sleeping, but I just know that she was looking out for her daddy every night.
The girls were so well behaved – none of the normal running about barking at every noise. All we can put this behaviour down to is they knew daddy was ill and they were trying to let us know there was something very seriously wrong. We will definitely take notice if they start this unusual behaviour again.
By Sue Ogden
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Sue Ogden is a professional dog groomer living in the Algarve. In her regular column, she provides readers with information on how best to care for their pets. Trained in the UK, she studied nursing, breeding, grooming, nutrition and kennel management. 910 851 140