Dogs

When Elizabeth Estes's dog, Ollie, started coughing last year, she didn't think he was seriously ill at first. But then the 3-year-old Jack Russell-chihuahua mix got much worse.

"All of a sudden, he couldn't breathe and he was coughing. It was so brutal," says Estes, who lives in Chicago. "The dog couldn't breathe. I mean, could not breathe — just kept coughing and coughing and coughing and gasping for air."

It looks like dogs might well have been man's (and woman's) best friend for a lot longer than once thought.

The long-held conventional wisdom is that canis lupus familiaris split from wolves 11,000 to 16,000 years ago and that the divergence was helped along by Stone Age humans who wanted a fellow hunter, a sentry and a companion.

Now, DNA evidence suggests that the split between dogs and their wild ancestors occurred closer to 30,000 years ago.

Scientists — and anyone who lives with a canine — know that dogs pay close attention to the emotion in our voices. They listen for whether our tone is friendly or mean, how the pitch goes up or down and even the rhythms in our speech.

But what about the meaning of the words we say?

Sure, a few studies have reported on supersmart dogs that know hundreds of words. Chaser, a border collie in South Carolina, even learned 1,022 nouns and commands to go with them.

The relationship between man and dog is unlike any other.

Many people dream of understanding what their dogs are thinking and feeling. Technology even lets us strap a camera on a dog's head to see what it sees.

Soon, we may be able to talk to our dogs — but not exactly with our voices.

Laura Palmisano

Ten kids and their dogs competed in the 4-H Dog Obedience Show at the Delta County Fair.

Dog trainer Rayna Stout of Cedaredge judged the competition where young trainers and their K-9s were scored based on their performances in showmanship, obedience and agility. 

Kenda Falkner, 13, and her dog Australian Shepherd-Red Heeler mix Ashkie entered the show for fun.

"Well we just got this new puppy so I just thought it would be kind of fun just to kind of help train him," she said. 

When you kiss your husband, does your dog try to get your attention? And does that mean that your dog feels jealous? Threatened? Or are we just imagining that?

Many if not all dog owners are sure that their pets have feelings. And we've known for a while that animals exhibit behaviors that look like jealousy, guilt and shame. But it's hard to find out what animals are really feeling. And researchers say that understanding that could give us valuable insights into human emotions, too.