If I Could Talk to the Animals

My friend Deb  is dog sitting her son’s 15 year old Boxer, Marilyn.  Deb also has a 16 year old Fox Terrier named Ellie.  Marilyn  is a regular guest at Deb’s house and knows the house and the inhabitants very well. Deb talks to both dogs in a way I find terribly funny. They respond to her in ways that makes me think that dogs are even smarter than we already give them credit for.

One night this week,  Deb was awakened by Ellie pawing at her arm and whining. This can mean that Ellie wants food or that something is wrong. Deb told Ellie “Lie down and go to sleep! You can’t have any treats.” yet Ellie persisted, so she told Ellie “Show me what’s wrong.” Ellie led her to the kitchen, where she found a horrible mess. All the lower cupboards had been opened and all their contents swept onto the floor. Peanut butter containers had been chewed open and the contents devoured.  Marilyn has been known to do this before, but she can only open one side of the two-door cupboards.  Both sides had been opened. This means that someone else (a certain Fox Terrier) helped open all the doors.  Deb yelled “Marilyn, come here! You know you aren’t supposed to open the cupboards”!  Marilyn came over and glared at Deb and blew out her dewlaps, and grumbled “row row row row row” the way Boxers talk, and blew out her dewlaps again.  Deb told Ellie “You go in your bed!” and Ellie slunk to her dog bed with her tail down.

The next morning, Deb gave Ellie her favorite treat-two ice cubes, and Marilyn stole one. She chewed only half of it and spat out the other half onto the hardwood floor because her mouth got too cold.  Deb didn’t see it and stepped on it. Deb was quite annoyed and  told Marilyn “You pick that up and put it on the carpet if you are going to eat it!” Marilyn turned her head away from Deb in an insolent  way and blew out her dewlaps. Deb repeated her command. Marilyn glanced at her, and again looked away insolently and blew out her dewlaps.  After a third try,  Marilyn picked up what was left of the ice cube and took it over to the carpet to finish it.

How did that dog know to take the ice cube to the carpet? That is a complex command involving at least two concepts. It isn’t something Deb says to Marilyn on a regular basis, so she didn’t learn it through repetition.  Marilyn is usually a pretty sweet and compliant dog with Deb,  but they have differences of opinion at times. I love hearing about their arguments. Deb says that she never wins because Marilyn always gets the last word by blowing out her dewlaps as she walks away.

How do you talk to animals? What would they tell you if they could talk to you?

39 thoughts on “If I Could Talk to the Animals”

  1. Research published last year proved two surprising things about this. First, like people, dogs process speech with the left and right parts of the brain. The right hemisphere processes content, while the left hemisphere process emotions. Second, dogs understand both intonation but also the actual words they hear. Previously it was thought that dogs don’t recognize individual words but respond strictly to the emotion expressed in their owners’ voices.

    While dogs understand us better than scientists used to think, good dog trainers limit their speech and don’t presume dogs can process complex thoughts. Good trainers also know that dogs are hypersensitive to body language and respect its messages more than they respect the messages in complex sentences.

    Coincidentally I’m in the early pages of a wonderful book about cadaver dogs. It is called What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren. It is an intelligent, compelling exploration of how dogs and people can work together.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My father was a true horse whisperer, indeed an animal whisperer. He could turn into a rage against things and sons, never ever against women, such as his wife and most sainted daughter. Most certainly against sons. Never against animals, He taught me, ordered me, to never command a dog to come to me to be punished. His way of dealing with grievous offense of roosters, cats, and dogs, was to rid himself of the animal. An egg eating dog was in his mind and the mind of all farmers, to rid yourself of the dog.
      He met the description above from Steve. He spoke few words to animals. “Sic em, move over, kuh, whoa, scat” (He used the German words for animals a lot, words of affection by his tone.) He spoke fluent emotions with animals, unlike with hum ans. He cooed, soothed, clucked, grumbled in his throat like a horse. He and our string of horses were close compatriots. Horses and I had a nonaggression pact at best.
      Boots and I were the best of friends. He had a larger vocabulary with me than with my father, but then he and I played as well as worked. Cats and I have nothing to say to each other, which sometimes makes cats, such as my daughters, come to me. Dogs are attracted to me. It is of course in my attitude. I never made pets of chickens like my father, but they would come on my command.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. I recently read of a cadaver dog out in California helping to identify cremation ashes left behind in houses subsequently destroyed by wildfire.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. At present, I wish New Little Dog could talk so she could explain what has shifted in her relationship with the Cat. I expect it is part of the settling in period, but at present, she seems afraid of the cat. The cat, for her part, seems either jealous or as if she may (oh my!) be trying to play with the dog – the latter of which, I think the dog has interpreted not as play but as taking swipes at her out of spite (which, frankly, the dog did deserve for at least a day after finding her way to the basement and eating all of the cat’s food). Little Dog seems content enough though, retreats to her kennel when she wants a little extra quiet, and has made it clear that if there is cheese open in the kitchen, some of it should be given to New Little Dog.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yesterday Bill put up in answer to me a video of cows responding to music. I did not notice it until the middle of the night. He mentioned he could not find the one he wanted. I think I know which one he means, one where a whole ensemble sets up in the pasture and gather the herd around them. Cows do have a thing about music, which is why farmers used to have a radio in the barn. which did we. We had only two radios for years, one in the barn. The radio had a visible impact on the cows. Boots never ever noticed a radio. I think part of the cows response was that the radio signaled we were in the barn, meaning food and being milked. Cows are just curious, part of why they respond to someone near their pasture playing music. There are several Utube videos of cows coming to music.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My rancher/farmer friend Larry is a lot like your dad, Clyde. He had a dog called Abe that was an amazing animal, an Australian cattle dog. Larry never gave commands to Abe, but Abe watched every move Larry made and responded appropriately. If Larry jumped in his truck and headed toward town, Abe slept. If Larry jumped in his truck and headed out on his land, Abe leaped in the bed of the truck to help Larry with whatever needed to be done. Larry said Abe saved his life a time or two when Larry got careless around his cattle. His cattle are free range critters that fend for themselves. They are not placid, bovine dummies. Get between a calf and its mother and you better be quick (unless Abe was there to keep the mother from doing something nasty).

      One time I showed my foolishness by complimenting Larry on how he had trained Abe. Larry was dumbstruck. He had never in his life “trained” a dog or anything else. It was a silly notion to him. Larry just did his thing. Abe watched, and when he could join in an activity he did. No training wanted, no training needed.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. My friend is very much in touch with the dogs’ emotions. She is also convinced that the Terrier can see tbe ghost of her father in law, who pays a friendly visit occasionally. The dog visually tracks something invisible move accros the room, accomanied by a cold draft that comes from nowhere.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. my mom got off on her ghost stories last week telling about my dads visits where he blows cigarette smoke at her out of nowhere.
      she said hes done it 6 or 7 times in 8 years

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s hilarious! Sounds like he’s getting even for something in his past life with her. I’m imagining her detesting being around his smoking and giving him a hard time for it. Or maybe like my dad who hid his smoking from my mom. Now, your dad gets to openly taunt her! I may have misunderstood your post, but this is my interpretation, tim

        Liked by 1 person

  5. my dogs are my dogs
    my wife and son have taken them for walks at the bnew house and they love it. it is a god chance for my son and wife to bond and the dogs get a walk out of the deal.
    i rest back in lazy master mode and they come over and sit by my feet after they return.
    deb and spencer want them to come to the basement or to the area that they are hanging out in but they choose me.
    the cats are interesting and they are thier own favorite audience most of the time but when they decide to come over for a rub they let me know it is time. now. now. now.
    the dogs are very good a communication and i need to be careful because i get their tails wagging so hard the nearby knicjk knacks and coffee cups have to be factored in.
    on our solo walks the dogs have graduated to no leash and folllow my requested distance perameters very nicely but we havnt run into the coyotes again recently. the first time i let them go leash free i had no sooner taken off the leash than a cyote popped up across the frozen (just barely) lake and off they went not listening to a word i spoke in masterful command voice.
    i am proud today of my being able to call them back form a squirrel or rabbit but question if they will be ther for me in the big contest that certainly awaits.
    we will see
    will the cats folllow my masterful command. not unless it is come eat your food again this morning.
    fish … they are easy.
    always happy to see you and they know it means food. pavlovs fish. they dont talk much. hi and thanks is about it

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I’m in the middle of Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail. A recurring theme running through the narrative is the challenge of communicating with a team of mules. Mules are intelligent, individual, sensitive, and less domesticated than horses. Mule driving is a precise art and communication, both spoken and gestural, is an essential part.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. I really like The Oregon Trail as well. Like Steve I thought the information about the mules and how they were handled was great. I was also really impressed with what a person will do to finish a trip that they’ve planned like this one.


    1. I’m on Twitter mostly for the purpose of keeping track of track.One of the other teachers who was killed was the cross country coach, Scott Beigel. From the student who posted a remembrance of him, I found out he was known as Coach Beagle. I imagine there are great stories that go with that one, given what little I know about beagles.

      RIP, Coach.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I love this argument, not to mention the new knowledge that somewhere in ND lives a boxer named Marilyn. What a hoot. Makes me laugh just to read it.

    We have little communications or arguments with our animals too. Our late, great cat, Cochise, a 6 pound tuxedoed wonder, was so in love with Lou. She made it very clear that I was expendable and that Lou was her main gig. She jumped out at me from behind the furniture, hissed, and shunned me depending on her mood. She even wrote an annual Christmas letter/gossip column about the family news which received replies and sympathy cards from those receiving the letter. She channeled the letter through me, but really, it was not that hard to interpret her feelings about anything. She just adored Lou and put up with the rest of us. She was really good for Lou’s ego.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I like the name Marilyn, too. I imagine at the vet clinic she is the only Marilyn they have. There are a lot of pets named Buddy and Max and Lily and Bella, but just one Marilyn.


  8. My dad talked to his pug and to the squirrels he fed and to our cats. The pug and the cats adored him. The squirrels rapped on the kitchen window for him to come out with ears of field corn.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. If she could talk, Millie the tortie would run an excited monologue on the kitchen counter, like this “What are you eating? Ooh, looks good! I love soup. Let me taste it. Butter, I love butter! I will just taste it as you turn your back. Mmm! Let me grab the package of ham. No, well I will lick the butter off your sandwhich. No! Not the basement! I promise I will stay down!”

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I no longer have a pet (unless you count Husband), but my friend has a wonderful, if very old tuxedo cat named Little Boy. She says it speaks volumes that he now comes to greet me when I enter her house… nothing overt, and I might miss it if she didn’t mention it. I let him have a sniff of me, and once he even climbed into my lap. He doesn’t say much except “If you’d just sit still I might stay on your lap.” But of course I don’t, so he says “Catch ya later” and goes back to his nap place.


  11. I admit I speak in baby tones to the cats, crooning “kitty kitty puss puss PIE! ” to our Luna, or “Oh, hello Sweetpea!” to our Millie. Tone is important.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Isabel has a sound she makes, somewhere between a howl and a croon, that probably translates as something like “I am the mighty huntress of the house, no other cat is my equal, and today I have captured a sock.”

    Sometimes when I’m busy trying to get some chores done around the house, Sammy will follow me around complaining loudly at me. I have no idea what his objection is. Perhaps he’s complaining that my activity is disturbing his nap time.

    Jory likes to sit at my feet when I’m eating cereal. He’s waiting for the last of the milk. He sits very calmly and quietly until I’m getting down to the last of the milk in the bottom of the bowl. Then he stands up and makes a faint but urgent mrring sound and looks very anxious. I think he is saying, “You are going to save a little for me, aren’t you?”

    He always seems to know what I have in the bowl. If it’s cereal, he knows there will be milk. If it’s oatmeal, although it’s the exact same bowl, he knows there’s no milk on it and he ignores it completely. Not sure if it’s the smell or the sound of it, but he knows.

    Liked by 3 people

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