Guilty Feelings

This is a Cracked graphic after all, so I’m not sure how serious it’s meant to be.  All I know is, serious or not, it’s complete malarkey, to put it nicely.  I read another article recently, this one on the more serious side, that stated dogs don’t feel and/or show guilt.  I had an animal behaviorist friend years ago tell me that as well.  Pfft.  Please.

I’ve had dogs all of my life and every one of them had a wide range of emotions, guilt and knowledge of wrong doing being strong among those states of mind. Every. Single. One.  I’m sure other dog owners would agree.

Right now I have two dogs and two cats. The cats I’ll get to in a minute. As for the dogs – if one of them does something wrong, even when I’m not around, I know it immediately upon my return. They give themselves up by their behavior alone. It could be minutes after the actual event, it could be hours. But they know whatever rule they broke in my absence is going to get them “the look” no one likes or get them the disappointed “talking to” they like even less. Even the non-offender knows a rule was broken and keeps away from the rule-breaker in case any guilt by association should rub off. Even the dimmest bulb in the pack is self-aware.

Normally, I’m greeted at the door as if I’ve been gone on safari for two months and everyone was concerned as to where their next meal or snuggle was coming from and they’re just terribly thankful I somehow found my way home to them to take care of their every need.  This is on a good day. Which is most days. But on the off day that I come home to a mutilated treat bag or a mess left for me that I’d rather not have left for me, one dog is simply gone, which she never is. She’s nothing if not underfoot. Until someone, whether it’s her or another, has done a dastardly deed. Then she’s under the bed. She’s under the covers. She’s under anything in order to hide away from any association whatsoever with said mess. The other one, while he stays out to greet me because, well, because he loves me and can’t help himself, he’s not his normal bouncy self.  You see, he’s a tattler.  Even if it’s on himself.  He lets me know a mess has been made, where it is, and if he could talk, I have no doubt he’d spill the beans on just who made it.

So, yeah.  Dogs have memory (duh). They have guilt. They know what’s right and wrong in their own little sphere of reality.

As for cats.  Not so much.  Oh, they have memory. They know what’s right and wrong in their own little sphere of reality.  They just don’t care.  And that would be because they’re jerks. Now, my cats have rules, just like the dogs do and I started training them early. For instance, they’re not allowed on the counters or the tables. They follow this rule religiously…well one does anyway. The other does when I’m around. But I’m not naïve enough to believe the ne’er-do-well follows it when I’m not around. I’m not an idiot. I know my cats. Did I mention they’re jerks? They’re also not overly bright. Which is good for me. For instance, the worst behaved of the two, Holly (aka the ne’er-do-well, aka the evil one), doesn’t realize that sound travels. So while I might not see her on the counter, I certainly hear her jump down as she notices I’m walking into the room (because she is smart enough to know not to be caught red-pawed in the “no cat zone”). But does almost getting caught bother her at all? Nope. She saunters off like nothing happened without a care in the world.

Holly (again with Holly) also likes freeze-dried dog treats. If I have a dim moment and leave them out on the counter instead of putting them away, she will steal them and tear into the bag and eat them all.  Or at least try. Sometimes she fails if the force field of plastic is very strong. Sometimes the treats just end up smooshed to powder thanks to her destructive tendencies. When caught it’s because, again, sound travels, and since the house is small it’s easily determined that someone is desperately trying to break into a bag of treats. Does she care? No. She’s not on the counter now. Now she’s on the floor. So in her mind no rules are being broken. The bag of treats is irrelevant. And really, she simply cannot be bothered with feeling badly about her behavior.  So she just gets up and slowly walks away in a very condescending way. That’s called being a jerk. I think I mentioned that before.  This is the same cat that steals my spot on the bed whenever I get up.  Even though she’s not supposed to be in my spot or touch my things, like my table. Oh, she immediately gets up when I return, and goes back to her designated area of the bed…but with nary a guilt-ridden or remorseful look backwards.

Life with my pets in some ways mirrors having raised my kids. There are way more bodily functions than I have ever wanted to contend with in my lifetime. Attitudes are similar. And I’m constantly trying to figure out who the hell did what with about as much success.


dogs' memory

14 thoughts on “Guilty Feelings

  1. You know, you’re so right! They do remember a wrong act. I had one who even remembered ours. No treat on returning back home after school (my mom was a primary school teacher), and the girl would sulk for two hours under the sofa!

    • She held a grudge over no treat! I mean, really!? How dare you not give her a treat! That’s too funny. 😀 My cat Shaylee gets mad if we have to go anywhere for more than an overnight. She ignores us and give us the silent treatment for a while when we get back. Animals are full of emotions and personality.

  2. My puppies have always had one of those guilty faces on, even hours after the incident has taken place. We had one dog that liked dirty underwear and the other likes clean underwear. They would always get to them when we weren’t home, you’d get home and the great guilty expressions that they’d have,lol

  3. One second or less? That might be true for the human male, but dogs are a different breed.

    (Actually, come to think of it, they’re lots of different breeds.)

    • I watched a movie years ago (NOT when it first came out…before your quick wit jumps in there…but rather on AMC) with Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin called “If a Man Answers,” where a new wife attempts to train her husband with a dog training manual. It actually works until he finds out about it and other issues arise that cause chaotic hilarity. 😀 Cute movie.

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