On his most recent visit to the Bay Area, my wife's youngest brother was confessing that "even though he's not a cat person," he has come to love the two felines with whom he currently shares his apartment. This was in spite of comments like "they're a lot like furniture," and "they watch more TV than I do." And so I felt another soul slip quietly away into the cat-trap.
Meanwhile, a recent study tells us that even the average dog has the mental abilities of a two-year-old child. Based on a language development test, findings show that average dogs can learn one hundred and sixty-five words, including signals and gestures, and dogs in the top twenty percent in intelligence can learn two hundred and fifty words. The most obvious way to expand your dog's vocabulary, by the way, is to use synonyms. Our dog knows more than thirty different words for "walk." She has a much better sense of time than we do, probably because she is so meal-driven, but I appreciate her feel for routine.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that dogs are just so darn eager to please. Learning comes easy when you're being obsequious. Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, suggests that what we once believed was guilt was really just fear. "The social life of dogs is much more complex, much more like human teenagers at that stage, interested in who is moving up in the pack and who is sleeping with who and that sort of thing." And they do that without guilt? Sounds pretty advanced to me.
No, I have still not met a cat that I wanted to settle down with, even though I've been told by countless friends, "Oh I know, but my cat is different." I have, by contrast, had a great many lasting relationships with dogs. Curiosity may kill cats, but it just makes dogs stronger.