It’s become common knowledge that dogs are a bit color blind. Whether or not that’s actually true is open to debate because dogs have some color receptors in their eyes, but they don’t always seem to use them. Still, it’s one of those things that “everybody knows”.
Being a superior human being, I never entered the fray, preferring to stay on the sidelines until all the science was done. Well, folks, for me, all the science is done. Here’s what happened.
Dawg and I had to make a trip to the vet (an experience he could do without, given a choice). What he didn’t know was: we were just there to pick up a drug refill, not for him to be poked and prodded. In fact, I decided after his first, negative reaction to visiting the vet that I would take him there every so often just to visit. My thoughts were that if he didn’t get poked, pinched, and prodded every time we went, he’d relax more. Like most theories, it sounded good on paper but was worthless when tested in the real world. After eight years, I’m still doing it, hoping against hope that the good effects of the program will kick in any time now. I’m kinda slow, you know…
Anyway, after parking in my usual spot (handicap slot), visiting all the trees in the area (when Dawg’s nervous, he has to … well, you know), going inside and getting the medicine, sitting and petting him awhile in the waiting room. Then taking him back outside to re-visit the trees, it was finally time for us to go. He immediately drug me back to the driver’s side door of the van (his preferred egress) and sat and stared at it in the hope that we would be leaving soon. Holding his leash, I stood well back behind him and leaned on another van. He continued to stare at the van door, occasionally looking over his shoulder at me as if to say, “Well, get on with it!”
Okay, time for a little bit of background information. According to one dog behavior expert whose book I read, dogs are very good at distinguishing odors. But they often use visual clues also. For example, if you go out shopping and come home wearing a different outfit, the dog might not recognize you at first. She Who Must Be Obeyed has seen this effect first-hand. The first time she comes down the stairs each fall wearing her winter coat, Dawg, who was all excited from hearing her bedroom door open, suddenly backs up behind me and growls when he sees her. Simply wearing a new hat can change your profile enough for a dog to have a few moments of confusion. And remember, Dawg has shown that if, on his regular walks, something changes (like a hubcap missing on a car), it throws him for a loop. In other words, Dawg is very visually oriented, with a history of remembering detail. Except maybe for the plaster squirrel we have sitting beside the front stoop. That he forgets is there and tries to stalk it whenever we return from our walks. But other than that, he’s pretty consistent. Okay, he’s consistent with that as well, but in the other direction. Anyway, with all that in mind we can continue.
I eventually had to drag Dawg away from the van. Why? Because the van Dawg wanted to get into and go home, that van was a grey Nissan. I drive a red Dodge. In fact, while I was watching him watch the Nssan, I was leaning against our red Dodge. It looks nothing at all like the Nissan, even if you ignore the color. And the smell coming off the Dodge, just four feet away from Dawg, would have been the smell he’s used to smelling, mixed as it would have been with my odor and his. None of that smell would have been coming off the Nissan. You can’t even make the excuse that maybe he wanted to ride in a nicer van because, as much as I like Nissan vans, this one was older and a bit rattier than my Dodge. At one point I even opened the passenger door on my van and that didn’t even give Dawg a clue.
So — red van, grey van: Dawg can’t tell the difference. As far as I’m concerned, the case about dogs and color is closed. The case about Dawg and plaster squirrels, now that’s still open…