28 June 2007

My dog needs a Xanax; Do animals really have a sixth sense?

One of my dogs has always been somewhat skittish ever since I adopted her. Her first phobia was men in hoods; she wasn't down with that at all; probably because whoever abused her as a pup was some plastic gangster from J-City whose friends wore hoodies all the time. Sudden loud noises like gunshots she isn't down with either, but I don't see anything wrong with that; some things should be startling or else we'd all be dead, right?

But over the past year or so she's developed a very intense fear of thunder and lightning and rainstorms. She becomes completely inconsolable from before the storm until the following morning.

I could lay a fresh human femur bone at her feet but if its pouring outside, she couldn't care less. She just paces and pants and her little rabbit heart thumps in her chest. I feel so helpless, its really awful.

She'd taken to hiding in the shower but now even that seems like it isn't working. Last night I made her a cardboard hut which I put it on top of the chaise lounge like a little dry-land fort but she wasn't into that, either. She just hid under my chair at the computer and huffed and puffed her hot nervous dog breath on my ankles.

Today I read that this isn't uncommon and that "many dogs are not afraid of thunder or fireworks for the first few years of their lives and many people report that their dog was not in the slightest bit afraid of thunder until it was four or five years old while others say that the fear manifested in their dog's senior years." I found that very interesting but still puzzling. "It's interesting to note that during hurricanes the experts tell us to go to the smallest room in the house. Perhaps dogs know this instinctively?"

I've read a good bit about animals and their so-called 'sixth sense' and attunement or natural intuition. Many examples of what people call a "sixth sense", are probably just heightened and enhanced versions of the stable of five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell; there isn't anything paranormal about it at all actually.

So when dogs react to sounds beyond those heard by humans they can appear to react with no information but this is not really a sixth sense, but higher scaling in their sense of hearing compared to humans.

"A source of intuition that may be genuine would arise when creatures attune with their environment or niche, so that they become a part of that nature. The gifts would be especially potent if the animal or human could attune to the point of being wild. From such an integrated position within the environment, a person would have more direct linkages with initial and subtle information that an estranged person would fail to notice. The attuned person would have greater perception and wisdom, and apparent intuition, for their surroundings. They might appear to have a sixth sense, and know what was about to happen."

Attunement intuition is not actually a new sense, but a way of gaining extra meaning or making better use of the existing senses. Indigenous people know where to find food, and when to seek shelter because of signs in the weather, better than a tourist. They might be able to sense when a dangerous animal was approaching, by recognising the silence of nearby animals; a sailor can sense the wind direction better than a land lubber, etc.

A book I read, but never finished, not too long ago researched elephants and found they are particularly hypersensitive to seismic shock waves and actually communicate employing this method. Therefore, they appear to detect earthquakes long before many other animals, and flee from their direction.

You may recall hearing in the news when the massive tsunami hit Sri Lanka and the coastlines of India on the day after Xmas 2004, wild and domestic animals seemed to know what was about to happen and fled to safety. According to eyewitness accounts, elephants screamed and ran for higher ground, dogs refused to go outdoors and zoo animals rushed into their shelters and could not be enticed to come back out. We now know what followed but at the time, no one really thought anything of it. It wasn't until much later, obviously, that we put the two things together and they made eerie sense.

So, really its all scientific. Right?

Frequencies capable of being heard by humans are called audio or sonic. Frequencies higher than audio are referred to as ultrasonic; dogs are able to hear ultrasound, which is the principle of 'silent' dog whistles. Take this and the fact that a dogs sense of smell is 50 to 200 times stronger than ours, I would assume our dogs might know something was up before we did because their sensory perception is so much stronger.

If I'm walking my dog and she starts growling or barking at some dude, I usually agree with her choice as its usually some sketchy or shady character looming in the shadows. Chances are before I can even see the dude, she's made her character analysis and when we pass by him, she is going to make her presentation. Lassie wasn't a genius, she was a dog. And dogs are geniuses. It's simple, really.

However this doesn't explain everything. The elephants ran because they knew the tsunami was coming; they knew it was coming because of the oceans seismic rumbling; that's a scientific case closed. My dog is deathly afraid of rain and I'm not sure why but I am certain it has something to do with her acute (and adorable) hypersenses. I think we can chalk her thunder phobia up to something scientific. My dog barks at some sketchy dude because she probably picked up on his shady pheromones before he was even in my sight; and I think we can close that case, too, because the evil dude is there right in front of me giving off the bad vibes. My dog wasn't picking something up on her radar that was unseen and a million miles away.

So can animals sense intangible evil?

On the morning of September 11th I was walking my dog; I only had one at the time and its not the one who's afraid of rain now. Normally this dog was a perfect walker; I'd take her outside, she'd do her biz and we'd go back home. She'd watch Animal Planet on the couch and I'd leave for work. But that morning she was acting very strangely. And of course I only still remember that one walk out of a million walks because of what would happen later that day, but its worth noting.

I don't want to confound this entry anymore than I already have so I won't get into the fact that she made me late that morning and by making me late she very well could have saved my life because the route I took to work back then, had me driving right under the WTC right around the time the first plane hit. So, for as selectively superstitious as I am, I'll chalk that up to coincidence. Whether or not I had to leave for work and she made me late for my commute, she was still acting weird on that fateful morning.

She was whimpering and standing still and wasn't at all interested in taking a dump or peeing on the curb. She was preoccupied with something. And trust me, I take everything with a grain of a salt and I'm aware that with hindsight and with a tragedy like 9/11 maybe our minds want to create these terrific miraculous stories. But I swear to you, I am not. I remember thinking to myself how odd she was acting and I was getting frustrated because I wanted her to do her biz and I had to leave for work; I was running late as it was. It wasn't until later that I put the two things together and realised she was acting odd on that particular morning.

There is nothing scientific about September 11th prior to 8:46 a.m when the first plane hit. This wasn't a natural disaster; it wasn't a tsunami; my dog couldn't have physically felt the seismic rumblings of a particular plane in the denim sky; it was business as usual on a Tuesday morning in New York City.

So I really have no idea why she was acting so strange and nothing to attribute it to other than coincidence, but its such a coincidence that you want to think its something more. I can only think that in some way she was reacting to some unseen bad vibes - just like when they react to sketchy characters on the street - are they picking up on some sort of impending doom?

I can only intelligently assume its a lot like Voltron*; that when an animals standard five ├╝ber-heightened senses combine they form this somewhat magical and mysterious sixth sense; making them able to pick up on stuff that we can only dream about.

That's as simple as I can put it; coincidentally, that's where it all starts sounding very hokey.

Related: Can Animals Sense Earthquakes? from National Geographic News

*if you were really paying attention, you'd know that was the second time I've mentioned Voltron this week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm Wiccan and therfore do believe in the sixth sense idea. However, I also totally believe in science and logical thought. It's the science that we haven't figured out yet that makes magic possible.

I love the way you described the combination of the normal five senses being stronger to APPEAR to be a sixth sense. It isn't really. It's just that animals and people who are attuned to certain things that ordinary people don't. Of course, it's theory, but if not for theory, science would never get anywhere either.

As far as your dog on 9/11, there is a specific concept of a collective consciousness. The idea that all things are linked, therefore, if someone is attuned enough, they can be aware of so much more. The best comparison is like The Borg in Star Trek. They all know what all the others know because they are all connected through whatever. (Not a trekkie, but I know enough to enjoy the shows.)

If you want to ponder a kind of related topic, when I'm stessed out (which happens often becaue I found your blog by searching for articles on xanax), but if I get to a super bad place, then electronic things stop working. I release some type of energy that messes things up. Especially with remote devices. My garage door won't work when it's real bad. My wireless network has problems when I'm a little stressed, and I always have to reset clocks because if they're anywhere in the room that I sleep in, they eventually gain minutes. Usually by a half hour every two months.

A theoretical topic that I'm personally exploring in my thoughts recently is the idea of evil. Does true evil really exist? Or is it just sick people doing bad things? You can certainly call specific deeds evil, even that can vary among different cultures though. So is there really and truly evil? Evil within our own society is almost always initiated by a victim of abuse continuing the cycle, or eventually losing it because they didn't get help they needed. Or if not a victim, then a lack of a role model to teach morality. Or someone with a mental illness that doesn't get help. So if those are the things that "cause" evil deeds, that isn't evil itself. It's just the outcome of a bad situation. So what is real evil and does it exist? It would have to be something along the lines of demons. Because schizophrenia makes people hear voices, so that's an illness. And a lot of other violent acts could be explained away by our animal instincts that for the most part are completely erased by socialization, but does come out sometimes.