All animals play, especially when young, and often with objects. But when you throw something for a dog, it’s like a boomerang: with just a bit of deft management it comes right back to your hand. Why?
Because the dog wants its “self” back.
We often wonder how dogs see themselves. Do they see themselves as a person like their owner, or do they see their owner as a dog like themselves? However, because in my view dogs don’t think (my definition of thinking being the capacity to compare one thing to another thing, or one moment relative to another moment) these kinds of questions are only of relevance to the human mind. The human intellect, being primarily focused on comparing one thing relative to another thing, fixates on the forms of things and how these forms are connected through a linear chronology of one moment relative to another moment. The human intellect conceptualizes nature, and the only way to get beyond this filter is to consider nature in terms of energy. In my view, this is why modern physics – as opposed to modern biology and behaviorism – is a true science.
Dogs are ultimately attracted to the energetic essence of things, i.e. the energetic makeup within the form, with the signature of this energetic makeup being broadcast by how the form moves and carries itself. Visually, a dog divines this energetic signature by projecting its “emotional center-of-gravity” into the form and then feeling vicariously, but literally, what’s going on within the form when it moves – or even when it doesn’t move. This is quite literally a form of “emotional sonar” and is adaptive because the exact same emotional dynamic is at work within its own body/mind, as it is in all animals. So what a dog feels by virtue of this “mirror effect” is what it apprehends as its “self”. Nature is always a paradox; what all animals have in common is simultaneously the source of their unique individuality.
What is the emotional center-of-gravity? It is the cumulative physical memory of all resistance ever experienced; it serves within as a lump sum aggregate quantitative “mass” (like an entrepreneur’s net worth) that was acquired in pursuit of objects of desire. This emotional imprint is attached to sensations affiliated with its physical center-of-gravity, thus a dog’s sense of emotional well-being derives from its emotional center-of-gravity just as its sense of physical balance derives from its physical center-of-gravity. A dog has no idea of its “self” as a self separate and distinct from other selves. All it can ever know of the world (and this turns out to be quite a lot) is from what it feels within its body. In the dog’s mind, the world is in its body.
On the other hand, in those occasions when a dog can’t project its emotional center-of-gravity onto the form of a thing to thereby derive a feeling for it, then it will not be attracted to that thing and for all intents of purposes that thing will not exist in its body/mind in that moment.
This sense of self projected onto objects of attraction is always elaborating into higher and higher states of apprehension through the complexities of social interactions. Nevertheless, it is never a mental concept of “I am something relative to something else”. As a matter of fact, it’s a function of gravity rather than thoughts, which is why it is shared by all beings and therefore a universal platform for communication. So if a dog could talk (without thinking) and we were to ask a dog what it considers its “self” to be, it would say, “What I want and how I feel is who I am”.
When we throw something for a dog, it’s just as if a huge dose of essence shot out of our body, and since the dog has automatically attached its emotional-center-of-gravity to our form, the dog’s emotional center-of-gravity is proportionately displaced. The dog now feels driven to reconnect the missing essence with the form in order to return to emotional equilibrium. The dog wants its “self” back.