Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/191

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CANINE MORALS AND MANNERS.

Most interesting would it be, were it possible, to get the dog's precise view of the situation. The chief bar to our doing so is owing to the difficulty of putting our human minds, even in imagination, within the restricting limits of the canine thinking apparatus. Thus we constantly see, when anecdotes of the cleverness of dogs are told, that the narrator is quite unable, in estimating the supposed motives and mental processes, to get out of himself sufficiently to escape the inveterate tendency to anthropomorphism; and he almost invariably gives the dog credit for faculties which it is very doubtful if it possesses. When we come to consider how few persons have that power of imaginative sympathy with their own kind which enables us to see to some extent through another's mental spectacles, it is no matter of surprise that a human being should generally fail in trying to think like a dog.

Thinking, after all, is, like flying, an organic process, dependent in every case on actual physical machinery; and dissimilarity of brain structure therefore absolutely precludes us from seeing eye to eye, mentally, with the lower animals.

But this structural difference of brain with its inevitable consequences, although it balks us in one way, comes to our aid in another. As has been said, our custom of ascribing human faculties and modes of thought is an involuntary and invariable one when we are dealing with the mental processes of other beings. Even when we speak of the supernatural the same habit is manifest, and human passions, emotions, and weaknesses are constantly ascribed to beings presumed to be infinitely more remote from us in power and knowledge than we are from the dog. Thus we see in the not very distant past, roasted flesh and fruits were thought by men to be acceptable to the gods; doubtless because they were pleasing to the palates of the worshipers, who reasoned by analogy from the known to the unknown. This should teach us to bear in mind that there is, affecting the dog's point of view, almost undoubtedly such a thing as cynomorphism, and that he has his peculiar and limited ideas of life and range of mental vision, and therefore perforce makes his artificial surroundings square with them. It has been said that a man stands to his dog in the position of a god; but when we consider that our own conceptions of deity lead us to the general idea of an enormously powerful and omniscient Man, who loves, hates, desires, rewards, and punishes, in human-like fashion, it involves no strain of imagination to conceive that from the dog's point of view his master is an elongated and abnormally cunning dog; of different shape and manners certainly to the common run of dogs, yet canine in his essential nature.

The more one considers the matter the more probable does