For the Love of Dog
Newsweek US|May 26 - June 02, 2023 (Double Issue)
The hot new field of canine cognition' brings scientific insight to the burning question dog owners have: is it just puppy love?
By Adam Piore
For the Love of Dog

It's probably impossible to know exactly what your dog is thinking. But a few years ago, Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, decided he wanted to try and find out anyway.

The catalyst was Bern's diminutive pug Newton, a fawn-colored pooch with a friendly disposition and a small black mole on his cheek vaguely reminiscent of a young Robert De Niro. Every night for more than a decade, Newton climbed into bed with Berns and his wife and nestled his meatball-shaped head into the crook of the neuroscientist's armpit, before passing out and snoring loudly. The routine continued even after Newton grew so arthritic that he relied on a tiny-wheeled cart attached to his hind legs to tow himself around and required assistance to get into the bed.

When Newton finally passed away at the ripe old age of 97 (in dog years), Berns was so devastated that he began to ruminate on the nature of their relationship. Yes, he really had loved that little guy intensely.

But had Newton, he wondered, felt the same way about him? Berns tried not to dwell on the question.

It was sad to contemplate the possibility that for Newton their relationship might have come down to nothing more than a hankering for dog treats or a new chew toy. And how could one ever really know what went on in the head of an animal? A few months later, while watching news footage of a trained dog participating in the military operation to capture Osama bin Laden, Berns had an epiphany. If a dog could remain calm during a military raid, perhaps he could train his new pet terrier to lie still in an MRI machine long enough to scan her brain and see how she thinks.

This story is from the May 26 - June 02, 2023 (Double Issue) edition of Newsweek US.

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This story is from the May 26 - June 02, 2023 (Double Issue) edition of Newsweek US.

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