It must have weighed quite heavily on his mind. When this soldier returned home from a seven-month deployment, he really hoped that his dogs would be there to greet him. But when they saw him after so long, they in fact flew into the most stunning frenzy.
There’s no doubt that being a soldier is one of the toughest jobs in the world. The men and women who serve in our military regularly put their lives on the line. Yes, theirs is an incredibly dangerous duty – and one for which they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
And if the fact that servicemen risk their lives didn’t make the job difficult enough, they also spend lots of time away from all those whom they love. Conflicts often happen far from home, meaning that those who serve can go months on end without seeing their families and friends.
But while most people are understanding of their loved one’s predicament, some family members can’t grasp why their relationships must suffer for the sake of war. A soldier’s pets, for example, naturally don’t have the ability to comprehend the importance of their owner’s job.
Dogs, cats and all manner of furry critters instead have to wonder where their best friends have gone. Indeed, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that many of them instinctively feel abandoned – and so it may be that they start to put their old lives with their owners behind them.
This, in any case, was the predicament that one soldier experienced in 2017. As mentioned, he’d been deployed away from home for seven long months – and as a result, he was unsure whether his two beloved dogs would even remember him when he returned.
But someone decided to film the emotional reunion anyway, and it makes for compelling viewing. The resulting footage opens with the soldier approaching his home. Indeed, fresh from his deployment, he is still wearing his camouflage uniform.
As he inches closer to his garden fence, though, his dogs are nowhere to be seen. But, sensing someone approaching their territory, they jolt into action. Both animals begin to bark loudly, in fact, before running to investigate their visitor.
At first, it appears as if the animals do not recognize their owner. Their barks seem like those that dogs would use to ward off intruders rather than greet their loved one. Looking dejected, then, the soldier asks them, “What are you barking at?”
And with that, the serviceman opens his gate and enters the yard. What’s more, as he does so, one of the dogs appears to flee – as if in fear. The other one, however, sticks around just long enough to get a whiff of his master’s familiar smell.
Realizing that its owner has returned, the dog then jumps up in joy. And, noting his pet’s enthusiasm, the soldier bends down and scoops the animal up in his arms. Lots of sloppy kisses and furry cuddles follow.
No doubt feeling left out, the second dog at this point comes to investigate, and as he nears the adorable scene, his little tail starts to wag gleefully. Before long, then, both dogs were joining in with the energetic reunion.
So although the dogs’ reception was a little frosty at first, it didn’t take long for their demeanor to thaw. Seconds after stepping foot in his yard, in fact, the soldier had all the reassurances he needed that his pets remembered him.
Indeed, judging from the footage, it looked like they loved him more than ever – making it seem as if, for animals as well as humans, absence really does make the heart grow fonder. But could it be true that pets really do miss their owners?
Well, there is some scientific evidence to suggest that dogs can indeed long for their owners. A few years ago, neuroscientist Gregory Berns conducted an experiment to determine whether dogs experienced the same emotions as humans – and his findings were pretty astounding.
First, Berns trained a group of dogs to lay still in an MRI scanner while awake. Then, once he’d managed to do this, he ran his experiment using the scents of the animals’ owners as well as the odors of some strangers.
Scientists presented each dog in the experiment with five different scents. One scent was their own, and two others came from an unfamiliar and a familiar dog, respectively. The final two odors, meanwhile, came from either an unfamiliar or a familiar human being.
The results were quite fascinating, too. When a given dog smelt the scent of a familiar human – for instance, their owner – it stimulated their brain’s caudate nucleus, which is a region of the brain that scientists associate with rewards and positive expectations.
Meanwhile, a separate study looked into dogs’ behavior in relation to how well they know particular people. Using the scents of the dogs’ owners alongside those of strangers, scientists found that the animals reacted more strongly to their owners’ smells. For example, a given dog was more likely to wait by the door that their owner had left through than any other.
So, all things told, while experts are only beginning their research into animal emotions, it seems that dogs really can miss their owners. Which means that soldiers will never have to worry about their pets forgetting them ever again.