But suddenly something struck Maria's side so hard that she yelped and stumbled. It was Bingo, who had come unnoticed into the kitchen and now planted himself between the astonished Maria and the cage. She recovered at once, and ignoring Bingo, she rushed the cage again. But Bingo barked with great authority, a shout of a bark, and again he slammed himself into Maria. Amazed, she stopped, and then, as dogs will do when circumstances seem too puzzling, she simply left the scene, withdrawing to the far side of the room to see what would happen next. There she stayed. Then all of us were quiet in the half-lit room, Bingo trembling with emotion and panting hard as he faced Maria watchfully, Maria overwhelmed by this unexpected turn of events, me shamed by my own dog, and the mice and parakeets exhausted and still. Bingo stayed where he was as guardian until Maria left the room. Then I reached my hand to him apologetically. Quietly, humbly, he touched my fingers very delicately with his tongue.For context, Bingo wanted to mate with Maria, which is why his actions when she was menacing the smaller pets surprised the author.
The author is Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, an anthropologist who observed the dogs living with her and her husband and recorded the results in The Hidden Life of Dogs. I know her from an animal column she writes for The Boston Globe. She's been criticized for anthropomorphizing dogs as depicting them with thoughts and feelings, but her case that they have such is pretty airtight.
The book is not wall-to-wall heartwarming and tender moments. Some of it is disturbing as well as sad. But overall there is something touching about it, not least in Thomas's attempts to reach out and understand.