Or does that just sound weird to you?
When I read Pukka’s Promise by Ted Kerasote, I might not have agreed with all his conclusions, but I felt an immediate connection. First, he capitalized all dog breeds, not just people or place named dogs, but Poodle, Beagle and the rest. More important, he also talked to his dogs in complete sentences and they answered him back in complete sentences.
It seemed normal to me, but I seldom hear about it.
I got my first dog, Mickey, when I was three, the age when we are learning to talk and enjoying having someone to talk to. She answered back. It all started then and has become part of my interaction with dogs from that time.
It is most effective when we don’t have the distraction of other people around. Sometimes a human will look at me strangely -- as maybe some of you are right now.
Or I get, “Mom, you are trying to use logic on a dog.”
But babies or dogs, how else are they going to learn language if you talk to them only in monosyllables? If a child enters kindergarten and has heard only “sit,” “down,” “no,” “good boy,” “good girl,” they are not going to have good verbal skills.
I don’t know how many words my dogs understand, a lot of nouns I’m sure and no doubt some verbs and adjectives. I would guess that they don’t have a mastery of prepositions and conjunctions but those are incidental to important communication anyway.
Since they live only in the moment and can’t grasp the concept of abstract words, a sentence like:
I’m going to cook some hamburger tomorrow.
They would hear:
I’m going blah cook blah hamburger blah.
And they would do a happy dance, looking at the stove.
We know that dogs are far better at reading body language than humans. They may not grasp all the nuances of the spoken language, but they certainly get the tone of voice. I am sure they get the message I am conveying. They just lack the physiology to produce words themselves.
This all makes me think of a strangely beautiful short story that became part of our family lore years ago, Desertion by Clifford D. Simak.
It is about an old man at a base station on Jupiter whose job it is to send young people to explore the unknown atmosphere of the planet. Five have gone out and none has returned.
All of the data has shown that human life could be sustained on the planet. Still none returned. The old man fears they have all died.
Finally not wanting to risk another young life, he decides to disobey orders and explore the planet himself. Rather than leaving his old dog, Towser, behind, he takes him along.
As the two step from the base station to explore the planet, something strange and unexpected happens. Instead of death in the atmosphere of Jupiter, they discover that they are on a higher plain of existence.
Suddenly feeling much younger and stronger, the old man and the old dog are experiencing life as they have ever known it on earth even when they were young.
“You’re talking to me,” the man says.
“I’ve always talked to you,” Towser replies, “but you couldn’t hear me.”
Jupiter, they find, is a place of incredible magnificence and a higher level of understanding and existence. Now they know why no one returned.
“I can’t go back,” the man says.
“Nor I,” agrees Towser. “They would turn me back into a dog.”
“And me into a man.”