News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

May 5, 2014

LIZ CIANCONE: Wondering what goes on in a dog’s brain

TERRE HAUTE — There was an interesting tidbit on the evening news the other day. It seems that a team of researchers is conducting a study to see if they can find out what dogs are thinking.

It reminded me of the joke about the man who took his dog to a psychiatrist to see what it had in mind. Sadly the doctor couldn’t help man or dog because the dog was not allowed on the couch.

Those of us who are fond of dogs seem to have a natural rapport with our pets. My friend Joe and his “Buddy” certainly seem to communicate. Joe will ask Buddy what he thinks and Bud will cock his head and seems to be pondering the question. I’ve seen Buddy exhibit wild canine enthusiasm when Joe suggests a ride in the golf cart down the driveway to the mailbox. Buddy always rides co-pilot.

Then there was our Huckleberry who understood the world “squirrel.” Maybe it was our tone of voice, or the fact that we were looking out the kitchen window at the time — and he could see the squirrel feeder from there, but he ran to the window and let that squirrel know that he was on guard duty.

Huck was able to recognize the sound of our car pulling into the driveway and was waiting to greet us. Of course, as he aged and found it warmer upstairs during wintery months, he contented himself with an audible “woof!” to know that he was aware that someone had come in and that in case it was a burglar, he was available as a guard dog.

My brother, Ed, and I got our laughs from dressing Lady in a pair of Dad’s boxer shorts. The fly front enabled her tail to be free to wag. She looked embarrassed. Heaven knows what she was thinking, but she endured the humiliation with the dignity only she could muster. I marvel that she never took a nip out of either of us.

What will researchers do with the information they glean? What I assume is that we understand our pets and they understand us. Lady didn’t exactly head for the hills when she saw us coming with “people clothes,” but she showed more enthusiasm when we called to her carrying the walking sticks we used for walks along the Fox River.

It didn’t take rocket science to figure she was thinking pleasure with a walk and “Oh no! Not again!” When she spotted Dad’s shorts.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to

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