Doggy Siblings

Cali and Dora, golden retriever sisters, hangin out
Cali and Dora wait to be served at their favorite microbrewery (Photo by Cathy Condon)

I saw this silly (but cute!) story about dog siblings bumping into each other and of course thought about Cali and Dora.

Cali and Dora are sisters. Dora’s parents are among my closest friends and our favorite humans.

For the first four and a half years of their lives, we lived near enough to one another that Cali and Dora got together regularly.

They each have other friends. Dora was part of a regular pack of dogs who walked and played together. Cali has always had friends who come for play dates. But their time together was always special. I am sure that they knew they were sisters. Cali was comfortable enough with Dora to play without inhibition. She also made herself right at home in Dora’s house, on Dora’s bed, with Dora’s toys …

Then Cali and I moved to Montana.

We’ve been back twice for visits. We drove back and spent a couple of weeks there each time, and of course the girls got together.

They definitely know each other and remember their special connection. Cali gets excited when we’re many miles out but getting close to Dora’s house. As soon as Dora senses us outside she gets excited. Cali’s only problem is who to hug, dance around, and squeal over first — Dora, Dora’s mom, or Dora’s dad. The three of them are really Cali’s extended family and she’s so excited when we are all together.

Another chance encounter a long time ago convinced me that dogs do recognize their birth-family members: I was walking Jana once and we ran into her mom. Jana was grown, maybe even a year old. She hadn’t seen Mom since the day I took her home when she was just 8 weeks old. Jana was delighted to see mom and bounded up to say hi, all wags and smiles. I think Mom recognized her, too … but her response was to curl her lip, give a little warning, and turn away. Jana was crushed and came back to my side, sad and subdued.

Maybe her mom didn’t recognize her and just didn’t want to say hi to this bouncy young dog. I cannot know for sure. But I’m pretty sure I read Jana’s excitement and disappointment accurately. Jana was an extremely introverted dog and never approached strange dogs or tried to greet dogs we met on our walks. Her surprise and delight at seeing her mom were obvious. My best guess is that dogs recognize family members, friends, enemies, and others they’ve met before based on smell. I’ve seen dogs after a long, long absence, some who I knew as puppies and re-meet as adults, and they definitely recognize me.

The bottom line is that I have to get Cali together with Dora as often as I can!