This is an article that I wrote in 1996 for the book "Pets Need Wholesome Food Also". Now my article is featured in the book's web site at www.pet-grub.com.
Happily we have been endowed with the friendship of dogs right from the beginning of our history. In the caves, when we were hunters and gatherers, and even into our warrior eras, dogs have always been at our side.
We can't say very much now at how we behaved toward them in those early times, but I would assume, even by the lowest of standards, they were kept around as guard dogs and as scavengers, cleaning up the scraps and refuse we left behind.
The cave drawings of man and animal going out on the hunt together are a testimony to the close proximity we shared with each other.
There is a wonderful Indian story of how our relationship with the dog began. It goes like this:
While God was creating the heavens and the earth, and creating all the animals and differing humanoid races, all the animals were in the habit of gathering around and staying close to people.
One day the earth began to shake and there was a tremendous upheaval of the lands. All the animals dispersed - even the dogs along with them.
As they were some 500 yards away from the human camp, a huge rift in the earth split the land between the animals and the people. Before the crevice widened too much the dogs jumped the crack and joined the men around the campfire and have been with us ever since.
There are so many people that have the weird idea that they can treat an animal with as much disdain as they wish because "they are only animals". I once heard a man reply to me, when I asked him why he enjoyed seeing a fish hooked and thrashing in the water, obviously trying to escape, and in pain. He said, "Well it's cold blooded you see, they don't feel any pain. They don't know what's happening."
Well then, do animals have a consciousness?
Yes of course they do. But do they have a Self reflective consciousness?
That is a question for a lot of people. Anyone who has cared for a few pets during their life time and treated them with care and fondness realize that animals think. That they have a sense of humor. That they laugh and smile, and that they can become very sad at rejection.
I think the answer to the question of Self Consciousness was best answered by Ramana Maharshi, a great Gnana Yogi of India who said:
"Any sentient being which is able to perceive is also able to apperceive."
If you can project your consciousness outward, you can also turn that same consciousness inward.
If some higher being from another planet was to watch us musing, thinking ponderously or meditating on the infinite, would he not think much like we do when we observe a dog lying in the sun, contentedly.
That dog has nothing going on in his mind - except of course when he's dreaming and his feet are moving - we know he's chasing rabbits. We appear the same to a non communicating entity.
According to law of concomitant, each specie is endowed with the same Spirit, but his ability to "express" that Spirit is bound by the concomitant rules associated with that species. Dogs don't sing and birds don't bark - but they both express themselves, as we do.
It seems that when we are born, our Adams apple (voice box) is raised up into the throat in the same area as the great ape. Whereas our voice box descends as we grow, the great apes and other animals, take the position governed by the concomitant laws associated with each species.
And do our animals read our minds. Of course they do. They do a better job of it than we do too.
So remember, your pet is just the same as you. He likes good wholesome food. He likes variety, attention, love and clean bedding.
I once asked a young friend why she never married, and she said "I will when I can meet a man who greets me like my dog does every time I come home."
As to the fact of their attaining realization?
I go back to Ramana Maharshi again. He had two favorite pets, a dog and a cow. As the cow lay dying he held her head on his lap. When she expired he said. "She attained Moksha (Liberation)." He said the same for his dog when it died.
And you know, Ramana is never wrong.