We have a history of ESP in my family – not big stuff, just little things – like knowing when a relative is about to call (before Caller ID), or knowing when a timer is about to buzz.
Dogs take these little bits of irrational knowledge for granted. They don’t think it’s strange that they can guess when it’s Grandma’s car driving up in the parking lot, or when, without my saying a word or doing anything significant, they know I’m thinking of taking them for a walk. They accept that there are connections and electricity in the air that carry unspoken information, and they don’t rebel against it as eerie or irrational, the way humans do.
I read an article that said dogs can track our eye movements to read our intent, so that what we interpret as ESP is just heightened attention to our behavior. And, to a degree, I believe that a lot of what we call ESP is really a heightened version of the senses we already have. Someone who seems to have ESP may simply be very good at collecting the information of their five senses, remembering that information, and interpreting it.
But I also believe that there is a level of energy in the world that is beyond every day life. There is a magic that can crop up between people, and dogs are naturally more attuned to these electric and magnetic fields than humans are.
One night, a few years ago, a friend of mine was in trouble. I don’t know why I knew or even if I knew that he was struggling. Maybe it was a coincidence that I’d emailed him that day. But when he wrote back, he sounded suicidal. He wouldn’t come out and say that, and maybe he would never have acted on it, but I was worried. I wrote back to him and added a note to his cat that she should keep an eye on him and let me know how he was doing.
Dina, my temperamental black lab mix, usually slept up in my room, but that night, she slept in front of the computer, and then peed on the floor in front of the hard drive. She was getting older, yes, and in a few months she would be regularly incontinent, but not then, not yet. I choose to believe that she had received a message from my friend’s cat and was doing her best to send her own reassuring message in return.
Cricket seems to have ESP sometimes too. I have these episodes, when I get tired, where I can’t speak well. I can hear what I mean to say in my mind, even though sometimes my thinking is also garbled in these episodes. I seem to run out of the air necessary to form words with full articulation. But Cricket understands me.
I could be saying “I…eh…ugh,” out loud, but she knows that I mean “I think it’s time to take the dogs out to pee.’ And she will stand right up and yawn and stretch and come over to my knee, ready to go. Butterfly hasn’t figured out my gobbledy gook yet, but she trusts Cricket to know best and follows her lead.
We think of ESP as magical because we don’t understand how it works. But maybe the magical element of ESP in dogs is not just that they have different abilities than we do, but that they love us enough to use them to communicate with us. I wonder which idea is more frightening: that dogs are smarter than humans in certain ways, or that dogs love us, whether we deserve it or not.