Time Shells and Paws


How do you think animals conceptualize time?

I often wonder if they view it in their brains, like we do in ours? One second at a time? Past meeting future? Is it based on life expectancy? Or other things? I sure wish I knew.

Dogs are our primary example here, for many reasons. They are close to us, domesticated, animated, and in our homes. We’ve heard the cliche’, “Well, I’m only 5 and a half in dog years.” Does that mean that time is in slow motion for them? One year, lasting for seven of ours. Or does it all roll right out in the same measure, even though they only live for 15 of our years, on average.

What about turtles? They live forever and a day. The box turtle, out on its own, lives for about 100 years. Sea turtles more than that. How does time go for a turtle? Sssssllllllloooooowwwww. Okay, all joking aside, how really? Does time move very fast in their consciousness, and that is why they are so slow in all things other?

Or are animals even cognizant of time?

Let’s go back to the turtle / dog scenario. Let’s say we have each, for a pet. And in the morning, when we head out the door to go make the donuts, we say to them, “Skippy. Otis. I’m off to work, my little dears. I’ll be home at 5. I’ll pick up some Chinese food on my way back. Be good. Watch the house. I’ll see you later. I love you two. I love you both.” And. SLAM. Goes the door.

The house is eerily quiet. Skippy blinks at Otis. Otis scratches his left ear. And then, what next? Is it like some sort of hellish eternity, or a little blip on the grand scheme of evolution?

Did the Tortoise lose the race because his sense of time was much different than the Hare?

Does Lassie always comes through in a pinch, because dog-time is in the warp mode?

Is that why certain dogs will retrieve a tennis ball until next Tuesday? And what about Watch Dogs? Are they constantly checking their Rolexes, like me?

If they are cognizant of the elapsing motion of time, do their memories affect them, like they do us humans?

Pearl S. Buck once said, “One faces the future with one’s past.” I guess we may never know the truth of this for animals.

But I sure do know the truth of that for humans. This human, at least. The people who give advice on “All Things Life” say that we should “stay in the moment.” But that is like saying, “Don’t dip the chocolate candy bar in the jar of peanut butter.” Who can resist the meeting of those two luscious sweets? And who can resist meeting the moment of “now”, without the edgings from the “past”, and the prospectives of the “future”?

I sometimes feel like Gumby being pulled like taffy, between the two, with my mind stretching from far and long ago, to eons ahead. And then I look around me and realize that I have been whisked away to some far away place, and some far away time. Albeit, my intention was to be fully present and here.

But there I went. Off to Boxed Turtle Land. In the 100 year phase.


We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time. — Vince Lombardi


The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. — Leo Tolstoy


Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf. — Rabindranath Tagore