Reason and Instinct

ARE dogs endowed with reason? As you grow up, you will spend many happy hours in the contemplation of this interesting question. It does sometimes seem as if there could be no possible doubt that dogs, as well as horses, elephants, and some other of the higher animals, are gifted with the dawn of reason, so extraordinary are some of their acts.

It is but a few days since a dog in Vermont saved a house from burning, and possibly the inmates. The dog discovered the fire in the kitchen, flew to his  master’s apartment, leaped upon his bed, and so aroused the people to a sense of their danger.

“As I was walking out one frosty morning with a large Newfoundland dog,” says the Rev. J. C. Atkinson, “I observed the animal’s repeated disappointment on putting his head down to drink at sundry ice-covered pools. After one of these disappointments, I broke the ice with my foot for my thirsty companion. The next time Tiger was thirsty, he did not wait for me to ‘break the ice,’ but with his foot, or, if too strong, by jumping upon it, he obtained water for himself.”

Here seems to be the manifestation of a desire to learn from observation.

After the battle of Fredericksburg, it fell to my duty to search a given district for any dead or wounded soldiers there might be left, and to bring relief. Near an old brick dwelling I discovered a soldier in gray who seemed to be dead. Lying by his side was a noble dog, with his head flat upon his master’s neck. As I approached, the dog raised his eyes to me good-naturedly, and began wagging his tail; but he did not change his position. The fact that the animal did not growl, that he did not move, but, more than all, the intelligent, joyful expression of his face, convinced me that the man was only wounded, which proved to be the case. A bullet had pierced his throat, and faint from the loss of blood, he had fallen down where he lay. His dog had actually stopped the bleeding from the wound by laying his head across it. Whether this was casual or not, I cannot say. But the shaggy coat of the faithful creature was completely matted with his master’s blood.

Strange as these facts may appear, we should not confound INSTINCT with intelligence which comes from REASON. There is a wide difference between them. Before long I propose to discuss this matter to some extent, in an article which I have already begun.