Re: legend of Greyfriar's Bobby

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sat 28 Jan 2006 - 02:56:47 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: legend of Greyfriar's Bobby"

    >From: Kate Distin <>
    >Subject: Re: legend of Greyfriar's Bobby
    >Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 14:23:49 +0000
    >Scott Chase wrote:
    >>>From: "Price, Ilfryn" <>
    >>>To: <>
    >>>Subject: RE: legend of Greyfriar's Bobby
    >>>Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 13:18:38 -0000
    >>>These may be 'pre urban' legends
    >>I tried snopes with no luck using "greyfriar", "greyfriar's", and "skye"
    >>as keywords. "terrier" produces some hits but not anything to do with the
    >>"Greyfriar's Bobby" legend. I wonder how much truth is in the legend. Was
    >>there anything to the story that got it started and perhaps embellished a
    >>Beyond the truth status, my main concern is the emotional impact of such
    >>stories, regardless of veracity. After reading MacLean's Triune stuff, I'm
    >>still not fond of his oversimplified general theory, but he did get me
    >>thinking more deeply about emotion and its neural correlates. Why did I
    >>get choked up seeing a dog depicted sitting at its master's gravesite?
    >>>Another is the dog that sat on the tuckerbox nine miles from Gundagai
    >>>(NSW Australia)
    >>>An excerpt from
    >>>"The story of the faithful dog is quite possibly a romanticised version.
    >>>The refrain from the supposedly original verse about the
    >>>dog was:
    >>>Then the dog sat on the Tucker Box
    >>>Nine miles from Gundagai.
    >>>But it's been said that in the "actual" original, it wasn't "sat" that
    >>>the dog did."
    >>Dogs do have accidents.
    >>There's been many stories of dogs saving their families, perhaps barking
    >>to wake them in case of a fire or seeking help for an injured owner. These
    >>things are very popular news for news material. There could be some
    >>embellishment in such stories. But why the embellishment? Is there
    >>something deeply emotional in such stories that adds to their appeal or
    >>relates to a tendency to exaggerate the details?
    >And how much of this is genetic, how much learned culturally? I'm
    >wondering whether this response to doggy tales is universal, either across
    >or even within cultures.
    The emotional reaction to stories about bravery, as Keith discusses in another post, might have an innate component, due to inclusive fitness that's relevant to an earlier context in our pre-historic times when human groups were smaller and the likelihood of helping related kin higher. In the modern context these tendencies might be applied to non-kin and perhaps dogs too. If there's a part of our modular psyche that is switched on by tales of bravery, it might generalize over to dogs, especially in cultures that emphasize dogs as being part of the family or our best friend. This might be a cultural component that rides atop the innate tendency. Benzon quoted an article that discussed co-evolution of humans and dogs (tamed variety of wolves) which mentioned something of a mutualistic ecological relationship. Maybe dogs self-selected for traits of fawning to humans (either taming to them or unlike smarter chimps attending to cues better). But is there a distinct innate capacity in humans that is *specific* to dogs? It might go too far to say there's a doggy "module". Not familiar enough with the cross cultural stuff to know, but I did see a documentary quite a while back that contrasted the relations between humas and animals across cultures _To Love or Kill_ IIRC. Pets in one culture might be food items in another. Jainists revere animals so much as to erect a rat temple in a part of the world
    (India) where plague is a concern. Animal rights people are similar to Jainists in some respects. Yet some of us with undergrad biology backgrounds have dissected cats in anatomy classes. In an oversimplified nutshell, there's much cultural variation in our relations to animals.
    >For instance my husband gets much more gooey about cute kittens and cats
    >than I do - and certainly his dad's side of the family were real cat people
    >whereas my family of origin can pretty much take cats or leave them.
    >Whereas I'm much more of a sucker for puppies, which I'm sure is largely
    >because we always had dogs in our family.
    I grew up around dogs. We had a cat when I was too young to remember and I had another cat beginning in junior high. I think I was closer to the dogs. The cat lived through two different dogs and it's interesting to see different species cohabitate. I have kept a rabbit and guinea pig together before and that can be interesting.
    >And my mother-in-law is steadfastly unemotional about any animal at all
    >because she's a farmer's daughter and regards them all as either stock or
    >working animals.
    That's definitely an instance of social variation. Those who witnessed slaughtered cattle, pigs, and poultry as kids might have a diffrent attitude than someone who champions animal rights. There are those who hunt and OTOH those who find hunting appalling. There are those who think certain species of wildlife should be protected and others who call them "treehuggers". There are potential conflicts between conservationists and animal rights activists when you look at the nitty gritty, yet others classify both conservationists and animal rights activists under a derogatory term like
    "bunnyhugger" or some such.
    >And it's not just about the felt emotional response. I think we have
    >differing tendencies either to anthropomorphize cats/dogs or to take other
    >people seriously when they do. You know, "my cat understands every word I
    >say" - do you think "yeah, right" or "mine does too"?
    I get a definite response from my dog when I ask her "Do you wanna go for a walk?" Not sure if it's the inflection of my voice or parts of the question she attends to. I get a response to "Do you wanna go potty", but not as intense.

    Dogs learning commands might be a combo of words and body language. When I get her to roll over, it seems that a hand signal helps. I tend to snap my fingers when I tell her to sit and move my hand downward when I tell her to lie down and push my hand out in a halt gesture when telling her to stay. There's probably a lot of subtle non-verbal stuff going on, though dogs might grasp some words as cues.
    >On the other hand there does seem to be a strength of response to animals,
    >either positive or negative, which is more universal. We're about to start
    >puppy-walking for the Guide Dogs (i.e. having a puppy to live with us from
    >ages 6 weeks to 14 months, before it's old enough to train as a Guide Dog)
    >and I have yet to encounter a neutral reaction to this piece of news.
    >People find the prospect either delightful (because they love dogs and/or
    >think it a worthy cause) or apalling (because of the thought of having a
    >dog at all, or of giving a puppy up after a year, depending on their own
    >feelings about dogs).
    I think it's noble, because of the amazing capacity of dogs as service animals. Good for you. Maybe the separation from the dog after a year might be a little emotional, but some people like puppies, so it might be cool to see lots of them develop through their cute cuddly stages. There are people who rescue and rehabilitate dogs, mainly getting them to the point where they would be better candidates for adoption. There's going to be constant turnover in either case as the dogs get to the point where they can move on and you get to start afresh with a new candidate.
    >But is even this strength of response universal, or is it specific to my
    >culture? I'd be interested to learn the distribution of these sorts of
    >legends across cultures. It's no surprise to find them here in the UK for
    >instance because we are the most awful sentimentalisers of anything
    >animal-related. But are the same sorts of stories as newsworthy in
    >cultures with no tradition of keeping pets, for instance?
    Canine characters are fairly popular in the US. Benji, Rin Tin Tin, Lassie and Beethoven come to mind. Rin in Tin and Lassie had their heroic moments didn't they? It's been so long I can't remember exactly.

    In real life, I'd imagine police working with dogs as K-9's have their share of stories to tell.

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