Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Favorite Posts About My Dog Day, Part 1

Je Suis un Chien. Laissez-Moi la Paix

I talk to my dog. I know everybody who owns a dog, talks to it, but not the way I do. I talk to him like he’s human.

By this, I don’t mean the pandering baby talk that spoiled lap dogs get from their annoying owners (I find the owners of these dogs are usually far more annoying than the tiny, high pitched yapping dogs themselves). “Mr. Barky would like a snack now, wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t he? Of course he would!”

Nor do I mean the way an insane person might talk to a dog and actually expect an answer, or even hear one in their own minds.

I am at once realistic and unsettlingly personable in the way I talk to my dog. I never, ever expect any kind of response in return communication from him. Not even a head tilt of confusion. Yet I speak to him in a manner that would suggest I think he actually understands what I’m saying.

“Oh, I didn’t see you there,” I say to him after I’ve entered and crossed the room and turn to exit again. Having finished what I came into the room to do, I turned and noticed him resting on a pile of dirty clothes.

I acknowledge him in a way suggesting he would understand and appreciate the verbal acknowledgement. I don’t raise my voice or add any over the top inflection like I’m talking to, again, a baby. I respect him too much. He’s been with me almost as long as my wife has and there is a certain dignity I see in that relationship.

Respect and dignity accounted for, I sometimes feel strange when I find myself saying something like, “They won the game last night after all, how about that,” to him during SportsCenter. It’s not a thinking out loud thing, either. This is something I would keep in my head, silent, if I didn't know my dog was in the room with me. It’s like I’m saying it for his benefit, to let him know he’s included. When I do these things, often he barely opens his eyes and looks at me for a second before closing them. I imagine him thinking to himself, “Shut up. I’m sleeping. I’m a dog and don’t give a crap about sports.”

Even my sons know enough to keep their conversation with the dog to commands. “No,” and “Cookie,” and “C’mon,” sum up what they say to him. Anything else is directed at another human in the room, as they know it would be lost on the dog.

Yet still I do it.

I wonder sometimes if it’s an internally imposed comfort mechanism. Saying something to someone I know will not answer or respond in any way, but who will still be there. Or perhaps it’s a repressed dream. My childhood imagination could be nagging at me in the back of my psyche, wanting me to let go enough to entertain the thought that dogs could really be smarter than we think and that he might really understand. Hell, maybe I do hope in some deep inner part of me that he will stand on his hind legs, cross his stubby little forelegs in front of him and say, “I see your point and I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” as he produces a small doggy pipe from some hidden pocket in his fur and begins to pack it with tobacco. Then we’ll have a long, intelligent conversation about society’s ills.

I must admit, I sometimes feel a small glint of hope that he can at least translate what I’m saying into dog language (what if that weren’t a mix of barks and growls, but French, not that he could speak it, but he thinks in French, how odd would that be?) and I begin to think I see something in his big brown eyes that says, “I hear ya, buddy.” I’d like to think he’d call me buddy, but I think he might be more afraid of me than anything.

More like annoyed. I probably annoy him.

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