You see, I feed the dogs. In ritualized fashion, three times a day they line up and each receive from my hand what I decide is the exact-right amount of food. What might make FOOD the key that unlocks a dog's Religion DNA?
When a mother dog is ready to stop nursing her pups, she brings her litter their first solid foods in her stomach. Puppies continue being fed directly from their Archetypical Earth Mother * during a developmental period involving self-awareness, other-awareness and hierarchical learning. Learning to beg for food may be the canine analog of a baby learning her first prayer, "Ma!".
*There are few human cultures remaining where infants are fed and weaned in this way, but they do still exist. And all the ego-scientific crap about animals not having psyches and cultures? Thankfully that blither has all but disappeared from serious discussions involving our antecedent and contemporary Others. As for anthropomorphic falacy: you'll just have to trust that being raised by dogs has qualified me to understand their motives. (wink, wink)
Solicitation for food seems to be the ground water from which doggie-style ritual and superstition have sprung, at least on the hillside. Ignore the Appointed Time to feed them or take them outside? Plan to leave the house (gasp of horror)? They pray.
They pray, they dance, they cry out. A few sing (most badly, two beautifully). They throw themselves at my feet. They rehearse fertility rituals, bring me all the best chew toys, show willingness to slay the Evil Doers, and they chant:
"Feed us! Feed us! Are you listening? Did you stop caring? What do you want from us? How can we get
your love back? Why is it still raining? Who should we blame for this? If you want me to kill my brother to prove my devotion, I will. Don't leave! Come back! Love me, love me, love me!"
More assertive individuals watch me closely to catch any slight coincidental link between their behaviors and mine. Random, free-form frantic activity evolves into ritualized movement and vocalization which is repeated over time by individuals and telegraphed to all the "follower" personality types. Indeed, it is the less assertive dogs who are most enthusiastic and emotional in their prayers and certainty that I will be moved to act as a consequence. True to current human modeling, Leader dogs egg on Follower dogs, encouraging them to believe-and-pray harder.
Sound familiar? Yeah, I'm G-d.
I'd tell you how I feel about all this, but one of the big guys is organizing a sacrifice of one the wee poopsies as a way to entreat me to get his favorite tennis ball from under the sofa.