We at DFC live a pretty rural life. While we have an excellent emergency response, if we do say so ourselves, we still feel a bit more remote from others than we did in the ’burbs. I’ve often thought what would happen to Jill and Samson if either of their humans became suddenly compromised. I like to think that they would help us — but, according to National Geographic, we may need to have a talk with them about that.
Contributor Erika Engelhaupt has looked at 2015 study, as well as 63 separate cases of pet owners dying or becoming otherwise incapacitated alone in their homes, and having their beloved animals eat part of them. She lays to rest several assumptions about this behaviour that the public has perhaps formed from gruesome reports or legends. For example, the stereotype that cats are soulless hunters who would gladly eat the faces of their pitiful owners is not true by the numbers: dogs appear in reports most often as the ones who caved and, uh, chowed down.
Also, pets might not eat their owners out of malice, or as a last resort:
“In 24 percent of the cases in the 2015 review, which all involved dogs, less than a day had passed before the partially eaten body was found. What’s more, some of the dogs had access to normal food they hadn’t eaten.
The pattern of scavenging also didn’t match the feeding behavior of canines in the wild. When dogs scavenged dead owners indoors, 73 percent of cases involved bites to the face, and just 15 percent had bites to the abdomen. […]”
And, they may be listening to a deeper, wilder voice inside them from their deep evolutionary past — that overrides the more recent effect of their owner:
“‘One possible explanation for such behavior is that a pets will try to help an unconscious owner first by licking or nudging, […] but when this fails to produce any results the behavior of the animal can become more frantic and in a state of panic, can lead to biting.’
From biting, it’s an easy jump to eating, [forensic anthropologist Carolyn] Rando says: ‘So it’s not necessarily that the dog wants to eat, but eating gets stimulated when they taste blood.’”
To which I say, “Not on my watch!” I am sure we can train Jill (who is smart enough to open doors for herself) or Samson (who knows how to keep a cool head in an emergency) to call for help if we fall down the well. They will be the exception, of course.