Common Interests
By Danielle Terhune and Dog(s)

Started on: 04/20/10 12:30:09
Medium: Conceptual

This short weekend project was done on Friday, April 9, 2010. It is more of a conceptual theory that I realized with my dog from home, Comet. Comet is a Great Dane/Chocolate Lab mix, and was adopted by my parents from PetSmart during a Humane Society 'adoption weekend' in November 2006. He is currently 4 years old.

Comet is very funny because he has distinct Lab traits and distinct Great Dane traits that lead to an interesting juxtaposition. The lab in him gives him energy, a very happy personality, and a love of play. The Great Dane in him makes him believe he is a human, which entails constantly trying to sit his butt down on the furniture, watching tv, sitting around listening to conversations, and singing at the piano.

Despite his size and look of confidence, Comet's nickname in the family is Chicken Dog. And this brings me to the project.

The Lab in Comet loves natural water such as the beach, streams, and puddles. The Great Dane in Comet hates man-made water such as hoses, sprinkler systems, drinking fountains, pools and ponds. His fear of pools is so great that whenever my family enjoys our own backyard pool he shakes and hides in a corner, or barks frantically running around the pool trying to grab onto us and pull us out.

So this weekend back at the beginning of April, Comet's interaction with the Koi Pond in Storke Plaza came as an utter surprise. At first he avoided the pond, like any other man-made body of water. It wasn't until my brother and dad started showing interest in the pond that my dog too took interest in it. Being the sophisticated animal that he likes to think he is, he followed the lead of the humans. When he noticed the Koi fish at first he merely looked at them. Then when my brother and dad started getting excited about them and talking about there size and such, Comet took it upon himself to inspect the fish further. For the first time in his life he actually full approached the body of water and leaned over the edge all on his own. With encouragement from my family in the form of asking Comet what he was looking at he started making circles around the pond inspecting each creature that was moving about. Then coming back to us after a bit wagging his tale, then taking off again and again. He kept this up until we finally heard a huge splash. To all of our astonishment Comet had actually jumped into the Koi pond. Of course he was horrified and standing stalk still, but it was a great feat for him none-the-less.

What I gleaned from this observation of Comet was that my dog, and I believe animals in general, will act outside of normal character when influenced by humans. Of course this is general knowledge but I believe it goes beyond humans "tainting" an animals natural actions. Our influence on Comet taking interest was positive because we initiated his interest without forcing it. If we had dragged Comet up to the pond by his collar he would not have been pleased and would have run in the opposite direction, not caring about the Koi fish. Even if we had tried to coax him over with a treat, he would have sensed something fishy and again ignored our requests, as has happened in the past with all other man-made bodies of water. It was the fact that we took interest in something and then included Comet in our discoveries that gave him what he needed to respond positively to something he generally hates.

This experience brought to an understanding of animal collaboration. We as humans can encourage the animal to take part in what we are doing, but if they show no interest then we need to move on. If we have to force, trick, or bribe the animal to pay attention then its not collaboration. When we are willing to view the animal as an equal, they will respond in turn.

After a wonderful collaboration in the study of the Koi pond, Comet still refuses to drink out any kind of drinking fountain and settles for filtered Starbucks water. How human of him.

Collaborating with Dad.

Concentrating on and Studying the Koi Fish

Checking out the landscape

Wondering what all the fuss is about.

A sunny day in UCSB's Storke Plaza

[Write Comment]