We’ve often seen stories that have us wondering about the levels of emotion dogs can feel, from whether or not they actually miss us humans when we’re gone to whether or not dogs can cry. I’m a FIRM believer that dogs are very emotional and share many of the same emotions that we do. Happy, sad, fear,etc. The latest story to pique my attention was this one about Wiley, a service dog.
Wiley, the Service Dog
The video clip has been making the rounds on YouTube. It apparently shows the service dog “crying” at the grave of his handler’s grandmother. The dog appears to whimper and “make crying noises.”
The clip has been uploaded by sarahvarley13. In the description, she admits that she may be “anthropomorphizing” the actions of Wiley but adds that it’s how she’s choosing to deal with the loss of her grandmother.
Wiley is actually a “service wolf” that helps veterans returning from war with the program Warriors and Wolves. The program comes from the Lockwood Animal Rescue in California.
So was Wiley crying at the grave of Gladys or possibly just having a reverse sneeze? When I watch the video, it tells me otherwise and you can see the emotion on Wiley’s face.
We often turn to animals for comfort in times of need, especially when human words won’t do the trick. The massive number of cat videos on the Internet seems a testament to our desires to bond with something furry and adorable. Dogs serve the same purpose in allowing us to decompress and to deal with our emotions in more tangible ways.
What the Science Tells Us
The science tells us that dogs do indeed shed tears, but there’s no known or discernible connection between those tears and any emotional connection. Dog loyalty can sprout from a number of places and there are countless heartbreaking stories about a pooch missing his or her owner to an incredible degree, but the actual science on the subject is minimal.
If a dog does have fluid coming out of his or her eyes, it is typically the sign of a medical issue.
Granted, Wiley is not actually emitting liquid from his eyes in the aforementioned clip and does appear to be whimpering at the grave. Could this be an expression of emotion? It’s possible.
The Comfort of Mystery
It is, as you might imagine, pretty next to impossible to nail down exactly what a dog is thinking. We can make our best guesses, but these all come through the filter of our emotions – and sometimes our hopes – and can’t really be separated from how we feel things. Dogs do feel emotions, but to what extent and of what sort is kind of a mystery.
Perhaps it’s better that way. Perhaps it’s better not knowing exactly what’s going on in Wiley’s mind and simply existing in the great joy and compassion that can be found in his eyes. Maybe the unknown is comforting in a way too. Or maybe Wiley’s emulating grief he’s seen elsewhere.
We may never have a solid answer as to whether or not dogs can cry. And we may never need one.