Mutt: My eyes, my eyes, look into my eyes
Me: What?
Mutt:  My eyes.  Look into my eyes
Me: What the hell are you on about?
Mutt:  Oxytocin.  Look into my eyes
Me: Have you been sniffing the furniture polish beneath the sink again?
Mutt:  No.  Of course not.  Well, yes I have actually, but that’s got nothing to do with oxytocin
Me:  Ok.  I’ll bite.  What’s oxytocin?
Mutt:  It’s a mammalian neurohypophysial hormone
Me:  Really
Mutt:  It’s created in your brain.  By your hypothalamus.  Or by the supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei in your hypothalamus. By nerve axons, if you want to get all pedantic.  As you know you do
Me:  Okaaaay.  So what does this oxytocin do then?
Mutt:  It’s what made you fall in love with me
Me:  What!
Mutt: You heard
Me:  (sigh) All right.  Explain
Mutt:  It’s true
Me:  That’s not an answer
Mutt:  It is
Me:  Well, ok technically it is, but it’s not a logical response to my question
Mutt:  Well, technically you didn’t ask me a question.  You just shouted.  Anyway, there’s no point in getting all Mr Spock with me.  Love isn’t rational.  It’s chemical.  It’s pair bonding.  When you look into my eyes we bond.  Like Ron Howard and Celia Johnson.  And when we bond we produce oxytocin.  Only dogs do that
Me:  Trevor
Mutt: What?
Me:  Trevor.  Trevor Howard.  Not Ron Howard.  Ron Howard was in Happy Days.  He played Richie Cunningham.  Left about the same time as his hair.  He’s a billy big boots director now
Mutt:  Well I’m a dog.  Not Harry Norman.
Me: :- )
Mutt:  Or Bernard Maltin.
Me:  :-/
Mutt: Or Robert Ebert.
Me:  OK.  I get the point.
Mutt:  I love you. You love me too.  It’s no use pretending it hasn’t happened because it has.
Me:  God.  Are you actually quoting Brief Encounter at me?
Mutt:  Only dogs can do that.   Bonding, I mean.  Not quoting movies.  And only dogs produce oxytocin
Me:  Not cats?

Vet Tech

So apparently animal scientists in Japan have proved ‘an interspecies oxytocin-mediated positive loop facilitated and modulated by gazing, which may have supported the co-evolution of human-dog bonding by engaging common modes of communicating social attachment’.   They got some dogs and some owners in a room and ran some experiments.  Both humans and canines produced increased levels of oxytocin after prolonged bouts of gazing into each other’s eyes.  The same experiment carried out with humans and wolves produced different results.  Not much in the way of oxytocin but presumably a lot of human pee.

It’s the same kind of bonding that links mothers and babies.

I’ve often wondered about the relationship I have with the mutt.  It’s definitely a step up from any relationship I have with other animals such as tropical fish or rabbits or cats.  In fact it’s probably more affable than most of the relationships I have with other humans.

Stare Master

And it kind of makes sense.  The mutt stares all the time.  She’s a practised starer.  She would do well at the dry-eye death phase bit of StareMaster.

She puts this staring technique to use frequently and I had been thinking only last week – before I saw the Japanese technovet stuff – that there was more to it than literally met the eye.  She has four basic different stares:

  • Territorial defence: quite an aggressive stare usually accompanied by low throaty growling and raised hackles.  Appears to be quite effective against postmen
  • Inquisitiveness: generally used while we are out for a walk and something of interest crops up like a very old person exiting laboriously from a Nissan Micra. Her ability to hold an unblinking stare with equally immobile pose for many minutes on end while the old dear disembarks is impressive.  Current record – I have timed it  – is six minutes
  • Looking for affirmation: we’ve been doing a spot of road safety training recently. This usually involves me bellowing like Brian Blessed with a loudhailer any time the mutt wanders off into the road in search of something to pee on.  She still likes to do this but will now look up at me first before putting paw on roadway
  • Pleading for food: if I’m in the house on my own the mutt just comes up to me and says “I’m hungry” and I give her something to eat.  If others are there she will come and sit at my feet and stare at me.  And stare and stare and stare.  The staring can last for many, many minutes and is usually punctuated by increasingly strident shouts of “WHAT?” from me until I give in

And now I could add puppy love to the mix.

Oh good.

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