January 13, 2017

Get Smart

Get Smart

My dog is smarter than your dog. At least he was, when I had a dog. Although it’s been a while since anyone licked my hand when I got home from work, it’s still a point of pride with me, as it is with most dog owners, that my canine could outshine anyone else’s in the smarts department. Those of you lucky enough to be pet parents totally understand what I mean. And so does Yale University, which offers bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D.’s from its Canine Cognition Center. No joke. And Yale’s not the only one. Arizona State University and Duke University, among others, also have smart dog programs.

As every dog family knows, pet stores are only too happy to take your money for toys that allegedly prove – and improve – how intelligent your dog is. There’s a whole doggie industry out there that caters to this highly profitable and somewhat silly market.

Why all the fuss over your dog’s smarts? I suppose it could be the human tendency to anthropomorphize our pets, giving them human names, speaking to them in full human sentences, and assigning them human traits that make them seem like true members of the family. Who hasn’t asked their dog how their day was or what they’d like for dinner? Guilty.

I also suppose that it’s harmless. If Yale, Arizona State and Duke see value in advancing our understanding of animal intelligence while creating a new revenue stream, why not? If pet owners find psychic satisfaction in believing that their dogs rival their children in cognitive understanding, who’s to say they shouldn’t?

All I know is that the love of animals makes us better people. If we all had more compassion and empathy for other beings – human and otherwise – the world would surely be a better place. Remember the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

For now, I’m channeling my own dog-loving proclivities into the board of the Nassau County SPCA on Long Island in New York, of which I am a member. I am also proud to say that the NCSPCA is a beneficiary of the annual Marcum Workplace Challenge, a charity walk-run produced by our Melville, Long Island, office at Jones Beach State Park every July.

However you choose to give back to your community and those in need in the world around you, I encourage you to make animals a part of your generosity. Hamster, horse or hedgehog – the love of animals is a measure of how smart we are.