About 2 years ago my husband and I got a new grand dog named Bill. He’s an absolutely adorable, purebred, Beagle, who for some reason found himself homeless. As with all “new to the family” babies, one of his first car trips was to Grandpa and Grandma’s house. We all knew the humans in the family would love him – (that’s a no brainer) but what we didn’t know, was if our then 8-year-old Dachshund, Nevaeh, would like puppy Bill.
Initial sniffs and consecutive spins plus sniffs went well. Without warning, Nevaeh tucked her hind legs and launched into what we now call the “zoomies”. She ran as fast as she could from one end of the house to the other weaving between obstacles and bouncing off sofas. Bill was running after Nevaeh, and then Nevaeh was running after Bill. Soon Nevaeh was tired and Bill kept up with his own zoomies until suddenly and with a huff, he stopped and looked around with an expression of wonderment. Clearly, he didn’t know he was zooming alone!
Bill and Nevaeh enjoyed each other and gave each other energy. They were in a world of their own communicating in such a way that human and dogs cannot. We later learned that Nevaeh is the only dog in Bill’s life that gives him the zoomies.
It was after this and several other visits with Bill and Nevaeh that I began wondering if dogs have “doggy” besties.
I contacted Dr. Kim Rowley, DVM and instructor of the Veterinary Technology Program at Rochester Community and Technical College in Rochester, Minnesota. I asked her pointedly, “Do you think dogs develop dog to dog friendships?”
She said that although she has never conducted research to answer that question, her experience told her that dogs definitely have friends like we do. She went on to say she observed very ill dogs in the ICU watch other dogs walk past their hospital crates with zero expression or change in behavior. She explained that just as humans come to visit their ill furry family member, so would their furry housemates. Dr. Rowley said she would first see a tail wag and then the ill dog would try to get closer to their healthy, furry friend. The healthy dog expressed excitement to see the ill dog as well but was also hesitant and protective toward their housemate.
I then wondered if dog’s friendships changed and evolved like human relationships do. Kim went on to say she has observed friendships between dogs change over time. Sometimes they change for as short as a day and other times behaviors toward each other change for a very long time and they don’t seem to like each other anymore.
Hoping to find more on this topic I dug a little further and read an article written in Psychology Today by Dr. Stanley Coren Ph.D., F.R.S.C. titled, “Can Dogs Form True Friendships with Other Dogs” Dr. Coren writes about Mickey, a Black Lab and Percy, a Chihuahua. The shear thought of this story makes me emotional as I think of the love between these two, misfit friends. The way he describes Mickey and Percy’s relationship reminds me of Nevaeh and Bill’s friendship.
Mickey and Percy, like Bill and Nevaeh get lost in zoomie heaven and collapse in a heap of exhaustion only to start again after a good rest. On one of these occasions, Percy’s path of zoom led him into the street and a car hit him. Heartbroken, his family gently collected his body, placed him in a bag, and buried him in their yard. Mickey refused to leave Percy’s grave all through the night. The next day, the family observed that Percy was above ground, the bag tossed aside and Mickey was poking him to play. The family went to move Mickey away and saw a spasm or twitch in Percy. Percy then weakly moved his head and whimpered.
Percy was alive! Mickey didn’t give up on his friend and with help, he and Percy would again romp and play like old times.
While I’m not a scientist or psychologist, I believe dogs have buddies and playmates and based on my experiences with Bill and Nevaeh they also have Best Friends. After reading about Mickey and Percy, I also believe dogs build friendships that are even deeper than that. The kind of friendship where they lay down their life and never let go. Dogs form friendships of a deeper nature with some than others.
What do your experiences tell you? I’d love to hear from you.
My next article will be about our amazing, protective, loyal, and loving K9 Law Enforcement Officers. I have lots of questions so I will be interviewing some of our very own Police Officer/K9 Handlers here in Rochester, MN.
Until next time.