22-year-old Kennady Longhurst and her husband, 25-year-old Alex Salsberry, were nothing short of worried when they noticed their dog Sullivan (Sully for short) picked up a cough.
Just last week, Longhurst said that during a lunch break she checked in on Sully and noticed he was emitting a concerning combination of coughing, choking, and gurgling sounds.
Putting Kennady on her toes, she immediately reacted and “started Googling ‘dog CPR.'” Alex didn’t hesitate either, speeding back home in their Utah residence to assist Kennady and Sullivan.
It wasn’t long before Sully became his usual self, reportedly “wagging his tail and running around acting like himself.”
The strange cough remained, but Sully was pleased to see Salsberry staying home to keep a close eye on him.
The unfortunate cough was still somewhat present, but he was otherwise normal. Sully seemed to be healed just by the very presence of his owners. The next morning, however, Sully appeared to become sick again.
Alex Salsberry, worried, decided to stay home one more day to make a vet appointment for sickly Sully. The doctor took note of several symptoms, including a kennel cough, but further testing showed Sullivan was otherwise healthy.
“They gave us some antibiotics just in case it was a bacterial infection, but he didn’t have a fever or any symptoms,” Longhurst reported. “So the doctor was confused.” They observed Sully for some time, but the cough seemed to diminish. It was at that time that Sully’s vet suggested Sullivan could be putting on an act for attention.
We can’t lie, we’d probably get fooled by Sully’s puppy face too!
The vet informed Kennady and Alex that animals will sometimes fake being ill or disabled for special attention, treats, or privileges.
Colin Allen, professor of cognitive science at the University of Pittsburgh, believes that Sullivan wasn’t deceiving his owners, but rather utilizing past learned behaviors.
Colin bases this assumption off of his current knowledge of animal cognitive behavior, noting that “I’d be less willing to agree that it’s a deliberate deception such that the dog realizes that by coughing the owners will assume it’s sick. I’m going for the explanation that it’s learned behavior.”
Longhurst soon realized that Sullivan wasn’t the first to put up an act after Tweeting about it and hearing other stories from other pet owners. Our favorite is that cat that pretended to have a limp and a dog that decided it didn’t want to walk anymore.
“Sully is so so, so smart,” Longhurst said. “We’ve babied him so much he knows how to play us like a fiddle… we’re pretty sure he knows that we know he was faking it.” Longhurst reports that Sullivan hasn’t coughed since.
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