Me: So, apparently you’re a person.
Tierce: You’re not marginalizing me by comparing Canis lupus familiarus shiba to Homo sapiens, are you?
Me: Well, a guy named Gregory Berns has been studying dogs with an M.R.I. scanner and he’s found that their emotional reactions to various stimuli are very similar to humans’.
Tierce: Ahuh. And what kind of duct-tape-and-muzzle scenario did they enact to get these dogs into that deathtrap?
Me: Don’t be so histrionic. They didn’t do anything. They just trained the dogs to get used to the M.R.I.
Me: Positive training.
Tierce: Hah, and they fell for that, the fools.
Me: You like clicker training.
Tierce: Just because I’ve learned to work with the system doesn’t mean I don’t know what you’re all trying to do.
Me: And what’s that?
Tierce: Mind control.
Me: Mind control.
Tierce: Yeah. You know, obedience and shit.
Me: Nooo… they were actually studying the dogs’ brains through the M.R.I. scanner. It was pretty interesting. You see, there’s something called the ‘caudate nucleus’ and-
Tierce: The cauda-wha?
Me: Caudate nucleus. It’s part of the brain. If you measure its activity, apparently you can get a good idea of what someone likes. It looks like they can measure and predict positive anticipation. So, if you’re in the M.R.I. and you see something you like, they can measure that. Not only that, they can, under certain circumstances, actually predict what you’ll like.
Tierce: Can’t you do that by, oh I don’t know, paying attention to the fact that I will do just about anything for cheese or that I think small children are the spawn of the Devil?
Me: You liked Sophie.
Tierce: Well, she was different. Anyway, we were talking about some guy trying to control dogs with a scanner that makes them activate a nuke in their brain to make them like things.
Me: No. In fact, that is pretty much the opposite of what we were talking about.
Tierce: Whatever. Go on.
Me: Uh, sure. Anyway, Berns’s theory is that because the caudate in dogs is activated by similar situations that would activate it in humans, he and his colleagues might be on the track to proving that emotions exist in dogs. Therefore, it makes sense to Berns that dogs are, on some level, beings like people; having emotions, intelligence and distinct personalities.
Tierce: I could’ve told him that. I’m very articulate.
Me: Yeah. Speaking of which, how about enlightening us all to the presence of emotions in dogs?
Tierce: How about hunger? Is hunger an emotion? Because, if so, I’m feeling pretty emotional right now.
Me: Not quite.
Tierce: Well, if this guy is using food to elicit a response in the curdle-
Tierce: Right. Whatever. Anyway, if he’s using hand signals to mean ‘Chow’s on!’ and there’s a response, then hunger is too an emotion.
Me: Your comprehension of the work these people are doing is… special.
Tierce: What’s special is that you’re not meeting my emotional needs.