I know you do it. Because I know I’m not the only one. I talk to my dogs. I tell them how handsome/pretty they are. I tell them what I expect of them. I praise them when they cooperate. I also use them as a sounding board, to muddle through my own mixed up thoughts.
But here’s the thing that always gets me: my dogs talk back.
Crazy, you say? Yeah, right. You know you know what I’m talking about. You talk to your dogs too, and you know you can hear them responding in your head. No, they don’t stand up on their hind legs, gesture to you like Goofy, and actually speak! But they have a unique voice nonetheless, and they aren’t afraid to use it.
Ollie, my genius dog, is surely a human that chose to be reincarnated as a dog (good choice, I say!). He is the smartest dog – and possibly one of the smartest creatures all around – that I’ve ever met. He looks at me, and I know exactly what he’s thinking. I can hear it in my head. Ollie speaks like a little old man, with far too much wisdom and cynicism for any normal dog. And Ollie isn’t afraid to tell me when I’m being a “simple human” or a “stupid two-legger.” Yes, I’ve heard him say these things to me. He doesn’t mind telling me exactly what he thinks and how he feels. He’s an excellent communicator – made more surprising not by the fact that he’s a canid, but by the fact that he’s a male! How many human guys do you know who are that open with their thoughts and feelings, huh?
I’m pretty sure I could have conversations with Ollie about anything, even theoretical physics, but he usually skips out on talking unless it’s a topic that interests him – and he isn’t nearly as interested in theory as he is in fact. Ollie keeps me in line with his down-to-earth straight talk.
Then there’s Angie, my Spastic Fantastic (SpazTastic, for short!). Angie doesn’t say much – she prefers to let her brothers do the talking for her. When she does speak, it’s usually in single-word exclamations. Rarely, I’ll get a simple short sentence from her, but that’s the extent of her “verbal” communicative abilities – she’s far more likely to let me know what she’s feeling through her physical actions, and will often have a “spaz attack” causing her to run at full velocity through my home, in circles, before collapsing on the couch in a heightened state of arousal.
Angie was rehomed when she was 2 years old – before coming to me at that age, she spent most of her life living in a basement, and crated to boot. She wasn’t abused, per se, but she didn’t get any individualized attention, let alone substantial interaction with the wonderful wide world. Angie reminds me of a special needs child: she shuts down or spazzes out when she is confronted with “too much” or “too new.” Still, she’s a lovely dog, inside and out, and she seems quite content with her existence.
Don’t get me wrong: Angie is an entirely capable dog. She’s my favorite camping/backpacking buddy, and she’s never met a person she didn’t like. She’s just special, and she views things in her own particular way. What you see as “children,” she sees as “human puppies.” And she likes them a lot more than “normal puppies.” Where you might see a visitor to my home, she sees “Hands!!” No, seriously – whenever someone comes into the house, I hear Angie exclaim, “Hands!” All she cares about are the 2 new hands that can pet her – and pet her, they will, if she has anything to do with it!
I see nothing wrong with Angie’s unique perception of the world. It’s quite a beautiful, innocent, and gentle thing – as is she.
Finally, there’s Westley, the newest addition to our pack. Despite that, he has a very clear, distinct, and novel voice, and I’ve had no trouble hearing him from the moment he came home. I think that’s one of the reasons I knew he belonged here! See, he was supposed to be a temporary boarder, but somehow, “5 days” turned into “forever.” And I couldn’t be more pleased.
If dogs could have ADHD, Wes would be a textbook case. His thoughts are all over the place. They come and go, quick as lightning, and often seem to correspond to absolutely nothing going on in the environment around him. I’m sure it all makes perfect sense to him, but there are times I’m lost! Westley also has a speech impediment, so he cannot properly pronounce his Ls or Rs. And, in part because he’s such a little thing, his voice is extremely high-pitched.
One thing Wes certainly doesn’t lack is self-confidence. You should hear him proclaim, nearly every time he enters a room, “Heeeeeewe’s Weswey!!” (That’s “Here’s Westley,” for those of you who need a translation!) I’m pretty sure Westley knows exactly how cute he is, and he uses that to his advantage. A lot.
Undoubtedly, Westley’s self-confidence is enhanced by his testicles (which he calls his “stuff,” perhaps because “testicles” is a very large, 3-syllable word, with the letter L in it, and therefore a challenge for him to pronounce – but probably because his testicles are his favorite “stuff” in all the world). He’s a very macho man, in his own eyes…
Like I said, each one has a unique voice, and I can definitely hear them in my head. You (and most of the psychologists in the world) might see this as a problem, but I’ve found it quite helpful over the years. I have a special relationship with my dogs, because I believe I can understand them. Whether that belief is based in reality or fantasy seems secondary to the positive effects it has on our bond.
So, okay, maybe I am a little crazy. But it’s the good kind of crazy! And anyway, my dogs all tell me I’m just fine…
Can you hear your dogs talking back? Do they have a unique voice? What do they say? Comment below and share!