Dog dreams must be really good

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Whoever thinks dreaming is a uniquely human experience should get to know Ollie.

I’ve caught him staring off into the distant nowhere. Initially, I thought he was catching the scent of some critter, processing and deciphering it like a chemist would analyze a vile of liquid and arrive at its ingredients. But then on closer examination his nostrils aren’t quivering. He is completely motionless.

“Hello, Ollie. Earth speaking to Ollie.”

It’s like he doesn’t hear me. He doesn’t budge. His gaze doesn’t shift, although I have the feeling if I was holding a morsel of chicken this might be an entirely different outcome. Waving my hands has no effect. He’s in another world.

This isn’t entirely foreign. Ever since we adopted this spotted coonhound, he’s had an independent streak. He only comes if he feels like it, which is rare.

Carol and I have worked at this. Rewards, like a morsel of chicken, have limited success. When trying to get him in – he has the run of the yard to the extent of the Invisible Fence – she’ll tempt him with the chicken, holding it up and waving it with hopes that the “delectable” odor will reach his sensitive snout. It works sometimes, but usually he comes in when ready and not before.

I’ve tried other lures. Knowing that he loves the car, I’ll open the back door and hop in the drivers’ seat, even starting the engine. He gets the picture, yet, more often than not, he can’t be bothered.

I’ll close the car door and pull it forward as if I’m about to leave. You would think the fear of being left behind, always a motivator with our previous dogs, would have him rushing to you. Our former canine companions were always on watch when they caught wind we were about to go somewhere. As soon as the suitcases appeared, Binky wouldn’t let us out of his sight. He’d station himself by the front door and if he could he’d be in the car, frequently jumping through an open window to get in. But then Binky stuck close to home and came when called. We didn’t need an Invisible Fence.

I’ve tried the “pullie” with Ollie, too. This slimy section of knotted rope is his favorite toy. He’ll chew it, toss it in the air, catch it and shake it with deep guttural growls as if he was going to tear the place apart. It’s all a game and, as threatening as he may sound, Ollie has never snapped or attempted to bite me, even though I will pry his mouth open to get the pullie. Of course, he’s anxious for what comes next, whether it’s hiding it or tossing it. I can dangle the pullie, swing it above my head, and he’ll totally ignore me.

So when he sat blankly staring into space, my first thought was that he was just being Ollie. In other words, stubborn.

The more I looked, the more I came to the conclusion that he was in some far-off place. He wasn’t deliberately ignoring me. I simply wasn’t consciously registering.

What might he have been imagining? Was he in a doggie dream world of fantastic scents from roast turkey to furry butts, or was he thinking of lying in the sun soaking up the heat as he will often do?

I’m convinced dogs dream when they’re asleep. Ollie was dreaming early Sunday morning when I was awakened to a series of muffled yelps. He was on the couch – “his” sleeping couch, I might add – stretched out with eyes closed. His rear legs sporadically kicked, his nose twitching vigorously. He must have been on the hunt, perhaps leading the pack.

I watched. He loved it. In moments, he was motionless and in deep sleep. I turned off the light and went back to bed myself. I didn’t sleep. Rather, I wondered if he might later recall his dreams and maybe that’s what’s happening during those times when he’s off in a different world.

Maybe I don’t want to know, but I’ve got to guess that a dog’s dream world is a cool place if tasty chicken fails to bring Ollie back to reality.

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