A new book was just released called How Dogs Love Us by Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist from Emory University who studied human brain activity for years by using MRI technology. However, over the years he was nagged by a fascinating question as to what his dog was actually thinking and how does her brain work. So he began to explore his dog’s brain the same way as he had done human beings – by using the sophisticated technology of MRIs to map reactions and responses. Berns’ first step was to teach his dog to sit still in an MRI scanner and to wear earmuffs to protect her sensitive hearing from the noise. Later Berns and a colleague used different commands to see what reactions occurred in the dog’s brain. Within a year they put together a group of a dozen dogs that all underwent MRI scans.
Some of the findings indicate that the dogs have emotions and react positively to not only food, but also smells of familiar humans and, particularly, the return of the owner who had momentarily stepped away. Like humans whose certain regions of the brain light up on a MRI scan by a preference of food, music, or beauty, dogs can have similar responses and feel love and attachment to humans. As a dog owner, this does not come as a big surprise to me since I know that my two King Charles Cavaliers worship the ground I walk on – or so I have always assumed! However, I do know that I owe them love, respect, and appreciation as well.
There is still a lot more scientific data that needs to be gathered before definitive conclusions can be reached. However, one person offered his opinion of the current findings by saying that the relationship between dogs and humans may have to do with the fact that dogs choose us merely because they love us. In this way, our canine friends remind us of God’s unconditional love for us. God chooses us. It might seem amazing that our God always loves us, despite ourselves, but this is a basic truth. We do not need a MRI scan to know of God’s passionate love for all humanity. Yet each time, we respond to God’s presence in our lives, I suspect that the maps of our brains light up and the feeling of love expands. Our relationship with God continues to grow and flourish each time we acknowledge his presence in our lives. Our beloved dogs and other pets provide us with a viable reminder of this great love and for that we should be eternally grateful to them.