Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The canine Carol Vorderman

There is a wholly understandable propensity among pet owners to ascribe incredible feats of bravery or intellect to their pets.

I have to say that I'm more inclined to believe the former than the latter. Dogs for instance can be quite extraordinarily bonded to their owners, dragging them clear of burning cars or protecting them from other animals. Horses will literally run till they drop for their owners and even cats can be persuaded to show behaviour that passes for affection, at least to the untrained eye.*

In large part this is an evolutionarily sensible trait. Domesticated animals are doubtless aware in some form that their destiny as a species is inextricably linked to that of the species that domesticated them -- that's us by the way. Do try to keep up at the back. Or, put more simply, they knew which side their bread is buttered. In purely Darwinian terms, they are looking to back the winner.

Alex told me yesterday of a sheepdog he has seen on television that can perform simple calculations. Briefly Bonzo hears the calculation, say two plus one, and taps his forepaw three times. Bonzo can also do simple subtraction. Although in fairness, he never gets square roots right and is rubbish at long division. He's no Pythagoras. Still, within limits, it's fairly impressive.

Our own dog, the otherwise profoundly dippy Louis, excels mainly in feats of gymnastics. He stands on his hindlegs with ease and enjoys a sort of dancing/boxing from that posture, although he is no Muhammad Ali. Unless you can imagine Ali in a tutu. Or Dame Margot Fonteyn in a pair of Lonsdale boxer shorts.

Float like Madam Butterfly, sting like a BeeGee.

Still, Louis proved his mathematical prowess earlier this evening. I was late feeding him supper and decided to give him one cup of biscuits rather than two. He put his head on one side and raised one eyebrow in quizzical disdain thus proving one of two things -- either he can count to two or he is the canine reincarnation of my mother.

*Before you bombard me with pro-feline hate mail, please bear in mind that I am -- mainly -- joking. I am sure there are dozens of cats that are genuinely affectionate.

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