Second Chance: Science of Love

Second Chance: Science of Love

The doubters in the crowd question whether dogs truly feel love for people or if our constant show of affection is really all part of an elaborate hoax to guarantee food and shelter. Some have gone as far as to describe dogs as manipulative parasites. As a dog, I take great offense at that idea and know most dog parents would too.



For all non-believers, I offer you today’s Pet Column…

In reviewing research establishing the canine love of people, I came across an article in Huffington Post regarding a study recently published in the journal PLOS One. Although it far from answers the question of the day, it has yielded fresh insight into how dogs see people.

The findings add to existing research showing that much like humans and other primates, canines use specific regions of our brain to “process” faces.

“Our study provides evidence that human faces are truly special for dogs, as it involves particular brain activity,” co-author Dr. Luis Concha, an associate professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Institute of Neurobiology, told The Huffington Post in an email. “To dogs, the human face is no ordinary thing.”

Concha said he and his collaborators were surprised to find that dogs’ ability to perceive human faces had evolved to become such an “elaborate” neural process. Many other species, he said, consider the human face to be nothing special, pretty much just another object in the environment.

For the study, the researchers trained seven dogs to lie awake and motionless in an MRI scanner while they were shown a series of color photographs. Fifty of the photos were of unfamiliar human faces; another 50 showed everyday objects.

Researchers noticed that whether the dogs were looking at faces or objects, their brains showed activity in the occipital cortex, a region at the rear of the brain known to be involved in visual processing. But when the dogs were looking at faces, their brains also showed activity in the frontal lobes and the caudate nucleus, regions associated with communication, emotional expression, and storing memories.

So while the questions remain unanswered, I can tell you that as a homeless shelter dog here at Second Chance, when I see faces of humans, I start feeling hopeful (that I will be adopted), excited (as people are fun to be with) and eager (because I know that whoever adopts me, I will fall totally in love with – and, I admit, because I also want yummy treats).  PS – my name is Lily and I am a 5-6-year young, well-mannered, lovable, and mellow Border Collie mix.



And of course if your brain lights up more when you look at feline faces than canine faces…my friend Beauty is also waiting to be adopted. She is a true looker, a 9-month young tortoiseshell.  Beauty is quiet and gentle and a bit on the shy side, but she has been through a lot in her short life. Her brain best responds to people who are kind and loving…

Editor’s note: It’s no secret. The Telluride region is dog heaven. Well, pet heaven. Unless you are one of our furry friends who gets caught in the maw of neglect and abuse. Then heaven is on hold until Second Chance Humane Society comes to the rescue. Second Chance is the region’s nonprofit dedicated to saving animals’ lives and promoting responsible pet parenting and human-animal bond. In her weekly blog, executive director Kelly Goodin profiles at least one, generally two of the many animals now living at the no-kill shelter, Angel Ridge Shelter, a dog and a cat, hoping to find them loving permanent homes. The column is sponsored by Ted Hoff of Cottonwood Ranch & Kennel, who from time to time exercises his skills as a dog whisperer, partnering with Kelly and her staff to help train a particularly challenging animal.

Ted Hoff & Mae

Ted Hoff &  Magnificent Mae

By the by, there is no better place to park your pup than Cottonwood whenever you head out of town (for locals) or are heading to town and staying somewhere that does not allow pets. Consider joining Ted’s Very Important Dog (VID) Club for added benies. (Details on Ted’s website.)

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shop are both located in Ridgway, but service San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other Programs. View the shelter pets and services online:

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