Digital Toes

Brown_VW bus_2012-12-26

2012-12-26 – I don’t stoop to pick my clothes off the floor. I can grasp things with my toes. It’s a little awkward, but a works. Typing is a little hunt and peck with my distal digits. And piano is strictly chopsticks. But I have to admit that guitar is impossible, except for the strumming part.

Not all people can do things with their toes . . . other than kick people who can.

I was inspired to tell you of this primative [sic] talent when I was out in the part throwing a stick to our dog Lefty. No I wasn’t using my feet in any unnatural way, but Lefty was.

As a reward for returning the stick to me, I let Lefty chew on it for a bit. He seems to like to strip the bark from branches. A couple of summers ago he stripped the bark from the lower six feet of our mulberry tree. Or should I say “former mulberry tree.” But you get the point. He likes to gnaw wood. Lefty is hard to train because he doesn’t seem motivated by normal things like treats or praise. But he does seem to be motivated by an opportunity to gnaw the bark off a branch. So as a reward for retrieving the branch and bringing it to me, I gave him a minute to gnaw in peace before I grabbed the stick from him for another round.

As I was waiting (in the cold, mind you), I noticed that Lefty was using his forepaws in a decidedly undoglike manner. He was using his paws to grasp the stick while he chewed.

Now, let me correct the previous paragraph.

Lefty was using his paws like hands, but I think that calling this behavior “undoglike” reflects an unfortunate way of looking at dogs. Sure, the predominant uses of dog paws are walking and running. But they are also used for digging. And they are even used for grasping things.

Humans have a habit of labeling things in a way that makes for simple categorization. Grasping is a human trait, not a dog trait. So when Lefty uses his paws to grasp things, I am tempted to call the behavior undoglike. Some people would even call the behavior human. (Some people can’t distinguish between dogs and humans.) But grasping is certainly not an exclusively human trait. All primates do it. But birds do it, as well. And so do cats.

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