Monday, March 4, 2013

Eyes and ears - windows to the inner thoughts of non-verbal animals

Having shared our world with our pet dog Photon for fourteen years, my wife and I know her feelings about as well as humans can know the inner life of a canine. We've sometimes wished she could speak our language, to tell us directly what she wants and needs, what hurts, even, perhaps - I hope -which things are less of a concern for her than a worry for us. Like any pet lovers who really care about their non-human family members, we do our best to intuit and anticipate what is best for our charge. Pam has been amazing at doing whatever is needed for Photon, no matter how difficult, let alone inconvenient. Doggie has been amazing at making it all worthwhile.

Photon continues, so far, to make it clear that she enjoys being out in the world, able to explore using all of her acute senses. This is in spite of the fact that her hind legs no longer function very well. Sometimes we manage to go for surprisingly long walks; other times it's hard to get very far at all. It is always up to her - she leads and we follow.

The combination of her intense pleasure in surveying simple surroundings with the growing limitations in mobility led to Pam's suggestion to me that I try to capture Photon in a setting evocative of the famous Andrew Wyeth painting "Christina's World". Today I found her in a suitable mood, even though the composition of the setting would probably never remind anyone else but us of the inspiration.

Photon's World:

Here are two follow-up shots that show how expressive her ears and eyes can be. When Photon looks into my eyes, I know that although there is not a human intelligence in there, there most certainly is a high degree of intelligence, and definitely a conscious awareness, a self. We may never know "what it is like to be a dog" (or other animal), but I think it is well worth exploring whatever levels of communication and empathy we can establish.

I hear someone!

Who goes there!

Here I should probably add a photo of her looking at me through the camera, but I didn't get a good one like that today.



  1. Have you seen this modern (tongue-in-cheek) portrayal of "Christina's World?" .

    1. I had not, but I have now! I'm used to seeing painters imitate great works in order to learn from the process, and of course there are plenty of parodies, etc. The home page of has (along with the Wyeth-notWyeth) some rather impressive re-creations, and also some hilarious ones!
      Thanks for the link!


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