There was no Marley and Me moment (book by John Grogan, Film 2008). Friends kept telling me, they know. I watched her to see if there was any change in her behavior from the moment I had found out I was pregnant straight through the loss of that pregnancy. The plan is to only do this once, so I want to catalog everything carefully. The historian in me, the scientist, the author, needs to.
Sadie’s acknowledgement never happened.
A lot of study has gone into animal cognition. The science is fascinating. One of my favorite books is Alex and Me, by Irene Pepperberg. Dr. Pepperberg is an amazing animal psychologist. She faced a lot of opposition to her work (looking at you, primatologists). Alex was an African grey parrot, who was just amazing. He proved that birds don’t have bird brains. It opened the way for a lot of changes in the realm of animal behavior and psychology. It has changed how we interact with wild and domestic animals. I have no doubt they can sense and discern quite a lot more than we realize.
Dogs, more so than most other animals, have a heightened sense of smell. This is what is behind the belief that they can sense when you’re pregnant. Why not? They can smell cancer and low blood sugar not just drugs or explosives. They have super skilled sniffers! However, the animals that do this are trained to recognize a smell and signal the handler that they have detected it, in return for a treat. They don’t just come along and know it. Of course they smell something, but they don’t know to let you know they smell this thing, or that it matters.
When my hormones started going nuts, and my body changed (I made it to 7 weeks with a blighted ovum), there was no alteration in Sadie’s behavior. Did she smell something? You’d have to ask her that. What I saw was no behavioral shift. She still tore ass down the stairs, dragged me up the alley, and hurried over the ice with little to no care that her actions might hurt me. She carried on the same.
So, when the bad news hit, did Sadie already know? Did she not change because she had no fear that she might harm a baby, because there wasn’t anything there but an empty sac? The answers to those questions will forever be unknown. I remain fascinated about animal cognition. Cognition in general is a fascinating subject regardless.
A miscarriage is more than emotional suffering. I was lucky to not lose a baby. There was no baby there. It was disappointing, but it will never be as horrible as losing the child you’d been hoping for for the last (enter number here) years, but horrible enough because you thought maybe you’d finally achieved an all important dream.
On top of the tears and hormonal swings that render you a basket case, the pain is unreal. I was down for five days, uncomfortable for seven, and bleeding for more than 10 days (the link to the blighted ovum above, describes miscarriage symptoms as minor, and that just pisses me off. Probably written by an expert male who will never have a menstrual/pregnancy/miscarriage cramp in his life). Your body passes the tissues, letting every piece be felt for extra measure—and oh the blood. It’s unlike your period, and yet like your period, if your period were a craven terrorist stamping on your hopes and dreams and mocking you with a blackened grin of hate.
I am not sure if the medication I was given to encourage the miscarriage’s finality did or didn’t cause more pain. It does cause cramping, which is what has to happen to loosen the tissue and help it exit the body. But, I was in pain for days.
Here too, Sadie didn’t appear to register any issues with me. I spent most of my time in bed, or waddling to the bathroom. (BTW, Motrin doesn’t do a thing, go for Advil, or ask your doctor for pain meds, I wish I had—minor pain, indeed). Thankfully, I had the support of family and friends who helped me get her walked, and fed, while making sure I was fed and not having complications. Most days I was alone, but they were just a call away—as is 9-1-1 if you are concerned things are not going as they should.
Even though Sadie didn’t change her routine, and expected me to not change mine (who can blame her when she is dependent upon me for her every need), my roommate’s cat showed surprising awareness and empathy. Miss Pepper Potts came into my room every day and checked on me. She came right to my face, gave me a visual check and sniffed me. She then insisted on a cuddle. These were things she never did before. She has not continued them since. Detecting illness wasn’t part of her training. However, she must have learned it somewhere or this throws out my theory that animals need training on it. That is why cognition and behavior are so fascinating! The variables alone are an interesting puzzle.
No, I don’t believe cats are better than dogs. I believe that every individual is different. Sadie loves me very much, and is far more empathetic than Pepper under normal circumstances. She is the most intelligent dog I have ever had. She’s a peach to train. Only as far as I could tell was she oblivious, but then again, like I said above, maybe she knew nothing was coming of it…
Update: Sadie Sue passed away in April of 2018. She was only 8 years old.