Jealousy, on the other hand, is a secondary emotion that dogs clearly experience. Remember how Jack cons Butch into leaving his toy by pretending there are people at the front door? What is at the root of that behavior for Jack if not jealousy? It is jealousy that causes one dog to bump another out of the way of your stroking hand.
Nick and I traveled a tremendous amount together, and he became a true veteran of the Atlanta International Airport, frequently cited as the busiest in the world. Due to a serious personal flaw of mine -- perpetual tardiness -- Nick always ran when we were in the airport. Always. We would pass through the airport doors and off we would go, a big yellow dog running, with me gracelessly trying to keep up. As we reached the security checkpoint, Nick would fling his bag (he usually carried his own luggage) onto the conveyor belt, bolt through the metal detector, and retrieve his bag on the other side. By the time Nick and I reached the underground train, I'd be a sweaty, exhausted mess.
One day I failed to hold on to the handrail, as the mechanical voice demands prior to announcing that the vehicle is leaving the station. The warning is well deserved. When I fell, my purse spilled and my stuff rolled everywhere -- a truly embarrassing moment. I glanced over at Nick to make sure he was okay, since I had also dropped his leash. He was staring passively out the window of the train, some twenty feet away from me, acting as if we had never met before. It was so obvious that Nick was embarrassed by my misstep that the man who helped me up even noted, "Looks like your dog is pretending not to know you."
While dogs experience many of the same emotions as humans, they don't necessarily experience these emotions the same way that we do. I cannot tell you what Nick's exact feelings were about the death of the little boy. I can only note that he was profoundly affected emotionally by the event and that whatever he felt went far beyond simple reflex.
At Canine Assistants, I have seen many compelling examples of what can only be described as dogs grieving. It is devastatingly sad when any of our assistance dogs die. Their human partners are, of course, bereft. But somehow the people manage to keep going, to regain their balance and move on. That is not always the case when the circumstances are reversed. When working dogs lose their owners, the dogs often fall to pieces, refusing to eat or even participate in other activities of daily living. There have been anecdotal reports of service dogs who have quite literally grieved themselves to death.
The depth of their feelings suggests that the cognitive limitations of dogs may make them experience emotions much more strongly. Consider your feelings about the death of someone close to you; you are sad but you console yourself intellectually. Dogs do not appear to have that level of intellectual flexibility. When dogs feel emotion, they feel it largely without the tempering filter of higher thought.