Paige Parvin 96G
The first time I met Charlie—the cute blonde on the cover of this issue of Emory Magazine—he was behind bars. Maybe that should have been a clue.
He was, of course, in a cage at the Atlanta Humane Society, a frightened three-month-old puppy who had been brought to the shelter by a homeless man. When a volunteer lifted him out for me to hold, he shrieked and yelped and wriggled so wildly that everyone stared. The volunteer winced. Another clue.
I ignored the clues, charmed by his good looks and sympathetic to his obvious anxiety. I brought him home.
Memories of Charlie’s early days feature him frolicking in the front yard, one of my undergarments flopping merrily in his mouth; casually relieving himself in the middle of the living room where we sat with guests; eating an entire loaf of bread, wrapping included, leaving us to wonder how it had disappeared; and racing up and down the fence line in front of our house, barking rabidly at passersby.
One evening as I was making dinner, I heard a flurry of frantic barking and terrible, high-pitched screaming coming from the front yard. I rushed outside, panicked that Charlie had gotten loose and was attacking someone (which, we were beginning to realize, was within the realm of possibility). A young woman was standing on the other side of the fence in front of Charlie, simply screaming over and over into his barking face at the top of her voice. Clearly she had lost her mind, but then, Charlie can have that effect on people.
Another time, my partner heard Charlie going completely ballistic out front. When she went to investigate, she found the mail delivery lady standing in the driver’s seat of our convertible—conveniently parked in the driveway with the top down—while Charlie circled the car like a shark, only louder. The mail woman, who had apparently vaulted into the car with remarkable agility, was deeply unhappy with this situation. Again—Charlie can do that.
Despite repeated, ominous threats involving a farm, we kept him. With all his faults, Charlie was ours, and nobody knew it better than him. We learned to shut him in the laundry room when anyone visited, to make sure screen doors and gates were firmly closed, and to give other dogs and humans a wide berth on walks. We never worried about leaving our son home alone—not with Charlie there.
Charlie is ten now, and in many ways he’s a different dog from the nervous, wild-eyed puppy I brought home. He’s much calmer and sweeter, at least most of the time. No one has mentioned a farm in years. We love Charlie, and we thought we knew him. But recently, we had the chance to get to know him a whole lot better.
In this magazine celebrating the companionship and study of animals, you’ll read about Dognition, an online company founded by Brian Hare 98C to augment his work with dogs at the Duke Canine Cognition Center. Using Dognition, dog owners anywhere can be guided through a series of simple training exercises designed to reveal certain aspects of their dog’s psychology. When the program is completed, the dog is assigned one of nine personality profiles with names like ace, stargazer, and Einstein. So we did this with Charlie, mainly so I could have a legitimate excuse to put his picture on the cover. But the process, and the outcome, were both fascinating and fun.
Considering my description of Charlie’s early life with us, it may surprise you to learn that he is a “charmer.” What this means, it seems, is that he is intensely bonded with us, his family.
“A smooth operator, the charmer relies on his secret weapon—you,” reads his profile. “As a charmer, Charlie has exceptional social skills, which means he can read your body language like a book. He is not above using this information to get his own way. Charlie is no fool when it comes to independent problem solving, and his scores reflect a keen understanding of the physical world. However, Charlie’s real genius is that he sees you as an ally and partner, and he will usually turn to you for help before trying to figure out a problem on his own.”
Charlie thoroughly enjoyed the Dognition games, and he’s now part of a database including hundred of dogs that will help Hare, and other dog researchers like Emory’s Gregory Berns, learn more about the species as a whole.
On a sad note, in this issue, we say goodbye to Bill Fox 79PhD, a long-familiar and much loved Emory figure who died on April 11. At his memorial service, which was overflowing with family and hundreds of friends, former Emory President James T. Laney mentioned Bill’s great affection for his two dogs, Hank and Katie. We think Bill would appreciate the inclusion of the photo on page 13.
With this issue, we also welcome Maria Lameiras as associate editor of Emory Magazine. I know you will enjoy her thoughtful writing in those to come.