Dogs and Self-Reflective Consciousness

Q:  In Gail Fitzpatrick-Hoper’s delightful essay “Contemplative Lessons from My Dog” (Contemplative Outreach News, Dec. 2015), she describes how her dog exemplifies the surrendered life.  As a life-long pet-owner, I totally get it. My question is this: Does the dog have no self or no reflected sense of self? I realize this query is spiritual hair-splitting, but I hope to clarify my current understanding.

A:  I googled it and I learned that dogs get their knowing from picking up scent.  In addition, dogs are not able to see their reflection in a mirror; in fact, they seem to look away. This would indicate that they have no reflected sense of self. Does this further indicate that they have no self? It seems to me that they live in the moment – there is no time to build up a self. They are simply ‚Äúdog-beingness‚Äù itself with no reflection that this is the case.  In fact, they seem to reflect the mood and style of their owner. In fact they mirror them (a little joke).

Whether this was a help to clarify your current understanding, I do not know, but it gave me a chance to reflect and celebrate the role of pets in our lives. They do make a difference.

Not a pet owner,
Fr. Carl