He Knows
July 6th, 2011

Every morning GAP gets up first.  The dogs follow him out of our bedroom, wait while he gets IEP from his crib, and then the lot of them go downstairs to kick off the day.  About 10 minutes later I roll out of bed, go through my morning oblutions, and join them in the sunroom.  This is how it works… unless I’m pregnant.  There’s one wrinkle in the routine when I’m pregnant, because Scout knows.

The morning routine has been the same for several years now.  So I found it curious during my first pregnancy when, near the end of my first trimester, Scout stopped going downstairs with GAP in the morning.  He would go across the hall to the study, lie down, and wait for me to get up.  When I emerged he would greet me eagerly, then lie back down and wait for me to get ready to head downstairs.  He did this every single morning until IEP was born.

This time around he’s been a little slower to realize that I’m pregnant, and a bit more inconsistent in his attentiveness.  I think it probably has something to do with his protective instincts toward IEP and the fact that he can’t be in two places at once.  But sometime in the past couple of weeks he figured it out, and most mornings I get out of bed to discover that he is either waiting for me in the study, or hasn’t even left the bedroom at all.

Apparently, while there is no scientific evidence of dogs’ ability to discern pregnancy, there is voluminous anecdotal support.  Dogs are keenly aware of our body language, routines, and scents.  And all of these things change to some extent during a pregnancy.

Scout is the best, sweetest, most obedient, and gentlest dog I’ve ever known (and I grew up with dogs).  When we have overnight company Scout doesn’t follow us upstairs at night, but goes down to the guest room in the basement and spends the night with our guests.  When he was about three years old he found a burrow of days-old baby bunnies in our yard.  He checked on them daily (we assumed he was after a furry snack), and when they were old enough to venture out of their hole he lay down on the patio, making himself as small as a hundred-pound dog can, and gently played with them, never once pouncing or snapping.  We have it on video.  At six months old IEP pulled on Scout’s cheeks and ears regularly and Scout just lay there.  He walks at your side without a leash.  And when I am pregnant he stays close, making sure that I’m okay.

Taking a step back, maybe it’s not all that amazing that dogs can sense pregnancy.  They are highly social animals and highly attuned to their masters.  But even after having him in our family for five years now, sometimes Scout still awes me.  GAP and I have long said that Scout is the best dog we’ll ever have.  Perhaps it’s because he was our first, but even setting that bias aside, it will be hard for any other dog to live up to the example he’s set.

Every morning, until Baby #2 is born, Scout will stick close by my side.  And I won’t take it for granted even for a moment.

10 Responses to “He Knows”

  1. BigLittleWolf Says:

    This is such a lovely piece of your life that you’ve shared with us, Gale. Like you, I am astounded at the sensitivity and seeming “goodness” that some dogs possess. Our own family mutt was with us for 12 years – such a part of the family, and adored.

    Her ability to sense changes in us was remarkable, and she is sorely missed since passing just over a year ago.

    I wish you many many years of sharing your beautiful Scout with the entire family.

  2. Ana Says:

    Gale that was beautiful! Our sweet mutt doesn’t really seem to get the pregnancy thing, though she is generally quick to sense illness, pain, or sadness and rushes to help. I like your conclusion: to not take such gentle sweetness for granted. I grumble a lot about the dog hair (its on everything! how does it get INSIDE my socks?) but the joy and love of a loyal dog definitely outweighs the cleaning involved.
    Enjoy these months with your morning companion!

  3. Gale Says:

    Ana – I know what you mean. Both of our dogs (we have another Bernese Mountain Dog named Jasper) shed mountains and there’s just no end to the brushing, bathing, sweeping, and vacuuming. But the house just seems so empty when they’re not in it. Between dogs and kids my life may not be as tidy as it once was, but it’s much more full.

  4. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    You may know, Gale, that I’m not a pet person, but this story warms even my cynical heart. What a lovely companion you have, and how great for IEP and Baby #2 to grow up with another gentle, loyal caregiver.

  5. Laura H. Says:

    Thanks for this little blog present. It reminds me of our Sheltie Callie when she set a dog toy on top of each of my children when they were about 1 month old as if to say, “okay, you’ve been here long enough; time to start playing with me.” And of the time my daughter at 18 months grabbed Callie’s hair just above her shoulder and as I raced to free Callie I watched her mouth jerk open as if to nip my daughter’s hand. But instead of nipping, Callie bit down on her own hair and yanked it from my daughter’s grip. As you know, we lost Callie in January. So many happy memories…feeling grateful despite the hole in our hearts.

  6. Gale Says:

    Laura H – I know that hole in your heart well. It’s hard letting yourself love a pet so completely, knowing that eventually your heart will break when they’re gone. But (at least for us) they make life so much richer in the meantime.

  7. anne Says:

    Wow that’s sweet…I do love Scout. And when I stay with you, it always feels good having him by my bedside in the basement. Love that pooch.

  8. Cathy Says:

    I’ve had several pets in my life but none as fabulous as Scout sounds. I do believe all that anecdotal evidence. They do know.

  9. Gale Says:

    Cathy – He is pretty special. And honestly, nearly all dogs are. It’s amazing how they dig so deep into our hearts. … As an aside, I feel obligated to say that our other dog, Jasper, is every bit as sweet and affectionate as Scout. He’s a bit of a rascal and often scared of new people and both of those things tend to keep him from being as attentive and intuitive as Scout. But he’s just as loved.

  10. Kathryn at Good Life Road Says:

    Such a sweet story. I am not particulary an animal lover, not to say I don’t love animals, I’m just not enthusiastic in the way that some people are. But I have experienced this recognition with some of the animals that have come into my life. This recognition that there is more there than has been “proven”. Proven or not (some, which goes for humans too) animals are much smarter and more in tune than we think. They have relationships and feelings. I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it. Believe it or not I even have a fish story in this regard  While I do believe in science and studies and proving things scientifically, I also know that sometimes it’s just a formality that ends up proving something we have known all along. Thanks for sharing this intimate glimpse of family life, it was very moving.