I recently received a copy of Temple Grandin’s latest book, Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, to review. I’m about a third of the way through, and will post a full review once I’ve finished, but I wanted to write about an “ah-ha” moment that came after reading one of the early chapters.
I spend a lot of time at the computer; basically all day, and sometimes into the night. Occasionally the dogs (two big Old English Sheepdogs) will be in the house and come into the office to keep me company. They’ll come in, ‘let’ me pet them for a while, and then lie down and relax. If I’m reading, talking on the phone, or leaned over the desk writing (with pen and paper), they are content to lie around.
As soon as I pull out the keyboard drawer and start typing, however, they invariably get up and come running over to the desk. They take turns sticking their heads in between my hand and the keyboard. Sometimes I’ll have one on each side of me.
At first, it irritated me. Now it amuses me, and I’ll pet them for a few strokes before shoo-ing them away so I can type. But I couldn’t figure out why they did it. Until now.
I think that my sheepdogs are jealous of my computer, more specifically the keyboard. When I pull out the keyboard and start typing, I believe that they think I am “petting” the keyboard!! Their behavior is exactly the same as if I were petting one of them and not the other. They always jockey for top position in getting there head scratched, and I think they are just trying to prove their ‘dominance’ over my keyboard.
From my perspective, their behavior is confusing. From their perspective, it is perfectly reasonable. In fact, from their perspective my behavior is probably confusing.
A lesson, I think, that applies to interpersonal interaction as much as interspecies interaction.