Thursday, February 28, 2008

Counting Fish

I've noted on many occasions that my dogs can count. Although not sure whether I've posted here about it or not, I was discussing the very issue with Eric a couple of days ago. Apparently my observations may have scientific back-up. I'm neither crazy nor investing human qualities into my boys.

I was first aware of my dogs ability several years ago. I hand out dog biscuits two or three at a time. This practice was developed in self defense. Cosmos,you see, is preternaturally obsessed by food. One dog biscuit will not do it for him, but several at a time might hold him off from bugging me again for as much as 30 minutes. So, depending on the size of the biscuits involved, I may give the boys two (Large or XLG Milk Bones) or three (Trader Joe's Brand) at a time.

Cosmos always goes first. Sunny is much more reserved about food and if I try to bump him up to #1, Cosmos rips my fingers off during the feeding frenzy. After I give Cozie the biscuits, he runs into the studio to eat them there. Sunny always gives him a close look as he dashes by, but I never really thought what it was about before the evening of the revelation.

That night, I gave Cosmos three small treats. Then, because I had larger bones for Sunny, I only dispensed two to him. He stood and looked at me with the two in his mouth. Shock registered in his eyes and then despair. It took me a few minutes of him not moving to his "eating position" for me to realize. He knew that Cosmos had a greater quantity then him and didn't understand the difference in the relative biscuit sizes.

I pulled out a third biscuit and gave it to Sunny. He took it with the other two and danced off! And I thought to myself "Oh my God! Sunny can count!"

I initially chalked that up to a special ability that my big golden boy had but several years later, as Cosmos became older and arthritic, he started needing help into (our) bed. First he was able to get his front legs up on his own and I would lift his rear end. But later (now), I have to help each end, one at a time.

Our ritual is simple. Cosmos starts crying when he thinks it's time to retire. When I "get" it, we go into the bedroom and he runs in little circles at the geographical point that he has deemed the "bed entry zone." He settles into position and I count "One... Two... Three!" and then help him with his front end. He does make an effort to rise up on "Three" but needs the assist.

Then it's time for the back end. "One... Two... Three!" One night I decided to test the theory whether or not he understood "Three!" and did not scoop him up. He stood there with his front paws on the mattress and his hind end making little but futile hops. And I knew. He could count too.

I'm not sure how high my dogs are numerically gifted but I know they both understand up to Three. I think (thought) that they might understand up to "four" as, after all, they have four legs. But I didn't venture to think that they might be more aware than that. Even I have my boundaries.

So imagine my surprise the other day when I stumbled across this article. Fish can count.

Apparently, scientists have determined that the "American Mosquito Fish" has rudimentary mathematical skills "similar to those observed in apes, monkeys,dolphins and humans with very limited mathematical ability." They can count to four.

Now of course this shakes my theory that my boys understand numbers up to Four to the bone. (Yes, a bad biscuit pun.) I've never tried them beyond Three. But if a fish - that presumably only has two fins - can count to four, does that mean that my boys may understand numbers up to eight? It would almost make sense.

After all, since I believe that human mathematics grew from "base 10" because we have ten digits, it would make equal sense, assuming that the boys do have some mathematical ability, that they would operate in "base eight." Each paw has four toes.

I'm not sure how to test this new theory out. I'm not sure if I even want to. But I do know that I have some DVDs due back at the Library tomorrow. After taking care of business, I may meander on over to the children's section to look for Dr. Seuss. I can see us tomorrow night during cuddle time. Cosmos will be on my lap, Sunny pretending to ignore us on the floor at my feet. And I will start to read.

"One Fish, Two Fish. Red Fish, Blue Fish."


hot tamale said...

Oh man, I LOVE story time while cuddling!! Those dogs suuure live the life with you for a Mom. ;) Lucky dogs!!
love you

LI Laura said...

While I have never tested my dogs for number skills (and neither of the current pair are the sharpest tool in the shed), my late, beloved Jake could spell, especially W-A-L-K, C-O-O-K-I-E, and C-A-R. :-D

LI Laura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

love it laura..your such a good momma...hugs...


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