My dog is extremely strange for a number of reasons, but the one that sticks out to me the most is his hatred for cameras. Herschel, my Miniature Pinscher, instinctively knows when a camera is being pointed at him. Phone cameras don’t fool him, and neither do cameras hidden in shoeboxes with a hole punched through them. As soon as the camera is aimed at him he becomes either shy or hostile. This strikes me as strange not only because he somehow knows exactly what a camera is, but because he is normally the life of any party. He craves the spotlight.
The most extreme example of his aversion to cameras happened a few months ago. He was tired after a long walk and curled up on one of our couches while we watched a movie. He was sleeping so soundly that I thought I could snap a picture of him. He looked especially adorable at that moment. As soon as the phone came out of my pocket and the photo app was opened, Herschel opened his eyes. At first he looked at me and then looked away. I said his name. He looked back, this time with his teeth bared. What was once an especially cute sleeping dog became an agitated little ball of fury, awakening from nothing more than the sound of a phone being drawn from a pocket.
I think hearing has a lot to do with it. He’s probably learned the exact sound a phone produces when it’s about to take a photo, as well as the exact sound of an actual camera being pointed at him. He’s also quite sensitive. When someone is laughing at him (and not with him), such as when he falls off the couch or otherwise does something embarrassing, he sulks around and pouts. He knows when he’s being made fun of. I believe he associates the camera with having an undignified moment, and Herschel’s pride is everything to him.
I can’t claim to read his thoughts: he is a dog and I’m a human. I work all day while he barks at squirrels and sleeps on his dog bed. He leads a completely different existence than I do. No, I’m not a doggy psychic—rather, this is the explanation I’ve made up in order to maintain my own sanity. I’ve never seen such an uncanny behavior in a dog. He’s plenty smart in almost every way, but being camera-shy is a trait that seems so unique to humans that it’s utterly baffling to me and I think about it way more than I should. Despite Herschel’s aversion to cameras, innate sensitivity and extremely good hearing I will always try to get that one perfect photo of him. It hasn’t happened yet.
Stephen Burroughs is a writer, blogger and Humane Society volunteer. He enjoys blogging about everything pertaining to dogs and responsible pet ownership. Stephen writes for All-Dog-Houses, a site that specializes in dog beds of all shapes and sizes.