Kiwi See, Kiwi Do
By Katie Edwards and Dog(s)

Started on: 04/29/13 08:37:49
Medium: Performance

This week I wanted to revisit the Garden Court dogs, Coco and Kiwi, and learn more about their behaviors. Last time when I went outside and tried to incorporate some of Barbara's techniques into our interaction, I noticed that Kiwi was very responsive to her surrounding environment. Her mood and behavior seemed directly affected by the various stimuli around her, such as Coco's presence or absence. When I first took the dogs outside I tried not to interact too much with them, and this time I wanted to see if her mood would be as directly affected by a human presence/behavior.

There were a few residents sitting in the Garden Court common area, which is where the dogs like to sleep. I decided to conduct a bit of an experiment involving human personality/mood in correlation to an animal's. To do this I took Kiwi around the room and had her sit near the different residents. Some of them immediately started petting her and playing with her, which obviously excited her. Others sat quietly and did not acknowledge her, in which case she also sat quietly and did not make much of a disturbance. It was as if she was mimicking the human's behavior, which I suppose could be due to some sort of conditioning. For example, when an animal is excited and hyper yet it's owner is not, the animal is often reprimanded for such behavior. They learn to follow their owner's lead for what is and isn't acceptable in a given situation.

The most moving result of my experiment was Kiwi's interaction with a resident named Ken. As Ken was telling me about his horses back in New Jersey and how much he missed them, Kiwi nuzzled up against him as if she was offering her condolences. She was very affectionate, and it was as if she was offering herself as a stand-in for his pets back home. Then Ken started to tell me about how lethargic he'd been feeling lately, and Kiwi immediately went to lie down. She suddenly seemed depressed and tired, and as Ken drifted away from the conversation, so did she. Her mood paralleled whatever Ken happened to be talking about at any given moment. It's difficult to know if she recognized the different tone of his voice as he transitioned subjects, or if she was picking up on his body language. Just as a chameleon changes color depending on the surroundings, Kiwi modified her behavior to match that of her surrounding humans. I think the experiment could be an intriguing start to an investigation entailing human and animal emotion and the correlation between two species and their temporal behavior.

People often say pets are like their owners. Sometimes I wonder if living in a senior home has changed the personalities of Coco and Kiwi.

Ken & Kiwi

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