Tell a FriendLeigh AnneLeigh Anne Jasheway ~ Queen of Stress

Fido, Meet Plato

Let’s face it, dogs and humans operate by a different moral code. My dachshund, Justin, for example, finds nothing morally reprehensible about introducing himself to a complete stranger by sticking his snout in said stranger’s crotch (assuming Justin can find a ladder or mini-trampoline to provide the extra height he needs to reach that area of the anatomy). On the other hand, Justin would never intentionally snub someone because they have an NRA bumpersticker on their Humvee or they’ve not yet killed their television.

Many people think that dogs don’t have a moral code at all; that they just do the things they do by instinct. Thus, when a dog piddles on the neighbor’s rhododendron, the dog is free from the questions we humans would struggle with, such as "Did anyone see me?" or "Should I have piddled on the hydrangea instead?

But anyone who has shared a home, a couch, or a toothbrush with dogs as long as I have, knows that dogs do understand the concepts of right and wrong and they often must grapple to make the most morally appropriate choice. Take for example, my first dachshunds, Copper and Slate. Copper could and usually did, run circles around his brother, Slate. But after about the fifth time, even though he wasn’t the least bit winded, Copper would stop. I believe, Copper took into consideration the impact his action was having on Slate’s self esteem and chose to be a bigger man by stopping the game before Slate ended up in a twelve step program of some kind. ("Hi, my name is Slate and I… mmmh, what’s that’s yummy smell?") Either that or Copper was getting dizzy.

Slate was himself a fine example of a dog with strong moral principles. For the most part, he was the calmest, most Zen-like animal you’d ever meet. Strangers could come to the door with guns, knives or even squirrels and he’d let them in, stopping them only long enough to sniff their pockets for snacks. There were exceptions, however. If you reeked of cigarette smoke, wore a hat, or were skinnier than the homeowner (that would be me), he would bark hysterically, forgetting for a few seconds that you could be bearing Milkbones.

And I can see the difficulty Maddy Lou, my 3-1/2 year old dachshund has trying to separate good from evil. For example, when my husband is lying on the floor doing sit-ups, she has to come to terms with whether her need to stand on his windpipe and suffocate him while slathering him with kisses (good) justifies her jumping off the sofa onto his stomach, causing him to scream out in pain (evil). And usually, it does.

If you think about it, there are all kinds of moral dilemmas that present themselves to dogs every day. Here are just a few:

Is it okay to pretend that I can’t read the clock and don’t realize that it’s only 4:32 a.m. and not really time for breakfast?

Which should I lick first, myself or the carpet?

If something makes me unhappy, but it makes my person happy – such as dressing up in a stupid costume and having my picture taken – should I do it willingly or should I make her pay for months by tracking mud across the bedspread and leaving gifts in her closet?

Is it wrong to covet my neighbor’s hydrant?

Should I leave the squirrel in peace, accepting that all species have the right to coexist, or do I have an obligation to my own kind to keep up years of tradition?

Which is the greater evil, taking a bath or unrolling the toilet paper in order to create a diversion?

If there is enough food for everyone, is it wrong if I eat it all while the rest of them are still outside sniffing the bushes or is this really survival of the fittest and is it my duty to keep up my strength so that I can carry on the breed?

So remember, when you sit around whining about how complicated your life is, a dog’s life isn’t as easy at it appears!

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