Tag Archives: language

‘I speak over 2000 languages, including Dodo and Unicorn.’ Polynesia the Parrot. (Dr Dolittle)

I saw a program the other day in which children were asked who their favourite superheroes were.  Not surprisingly all the usual suspects were thereSuperman, Spiderman, Batman, Daredevil, The Hulk, Wonder Woman, The Flash . . .  Out of idle curiosity I then did an online search and found a survey in which adults were asked the same questionand the results were almost exactly the same.  (What? No Deadpool?)  

While I admit I love to watch the Marvel-movies these days, I can’t say I ever identified with any particular superhero when I was growing up.  I remember I used to watch the Superman TV series with my dad (along with really old re-runs of Flash Gordon (‘Flash, a-ah, saviour of the universe’) although I don’t think he can be counted as a superhero as he didn’t have any real superpowers) but my dad enjoyed these shows much more than I did.  When I was younger I always thought these shows were kind of silly, but the older I get the more I enjoy them.  Colours, lights, explosions, aliens, implausible plots, buff-bodies in lycra and body-armour . . .  I mean, what’s not to like?

And I started to wonderif I had to pick a superpower for myself, what would it be?   Mmmm, so many to choose from.  I am not keen on flying at the best of times, so that one is out.  Reading peoples’ minds? (I think I would prefer not to know.)  X-Ray vision? (eeerk—that’s just creepy.)   Invisibility? (meh.)

Then something happened this week which brought on another of those ‘WTF?’ moments (I seem to be having them a lot of lately) which decided it for me.  My superpower of choice would be the ability to talk to animals, a la Dr Dolittle (‘ . . . if we could talk to the animals, learn all their languages, maybe take an animal degree . . . I’d study elephant and eagle, buffalo and beagle, alligator, guinea pig, and flea . . . ) 

. . . but the very first animal language I’d want to be able to converse in would be ‘dog’ . . .

On Wednesday I came home as usual to a pack of silly, raucous, over-excited little dogs, who barked and bounced and jostled and hounded me (ha-see what I did there?) until I eventually changed into my daggy-duds and was ready for our afternoon walk.  (Well—not  Molly.  Molly decided a couple of weeks ago that she was never going to go walking with us ever again—but that’s a whole other story.)

So we left Molly sitting in the front window guarding the house and Mabel, Maude and I set off for the park.  All good.  We played on the grass, barked at the big scary dog around the corner (from a safe distance), met and chatted with some friends and then headed out along the river walk towards the beach.  By this time everyone else seemed to have gone home for their dinner so I let the girls off their leads so they could stop and sniff and explore (and wee) to their little hearts’ content.

(When I say ‘explore’ Maude usually roams far and wide—as long as it is within a six foot circumference of me, and Mabel rarely leaves my right heel . . . )

Anyway, there I was, happily walking along, looking at the water, watching the birds (wondering whether I should have brought my sketchbook with me) when I suddenly realised that Mabel was no longer at my side. Looking over my shoulder I found the girls sitting close together on the path about 100 yards behind me.  Just sitting . . . and watching me walk away.  I called them to me.  No response.  I called again.  Nothing. They just continued to sit quietly and watch me.  I scanned the area to see what might have stopped them. There was nothing.  Or at least nothing I could see.  No other people, no other dogs, no other . . . anything.

I called them to me again.  Nope.  They moved not a muscle.  Sigh.  As I started back towards them they stood, turned, and headed for home.  Well, okay then. Home it is.  They didn’t appear upset, or scared, or distressed, but something—some sound, smell, sight—or notion—had stopped them dead in their tracks, and left me clueless. They may both be a bit scatty at times but this was weird even for themand they have always come to me when called.

When we got home they greeted their long lost sister Molly, ate their dinner and settled in for the evening as if nothing untoward had happened.  And perhaps it hadn’t.  Perhaps there was nothing freaky going on and I was reading too much into it.   Maybe they had just had enough of walking and didn’t want to go any further (I guess there is a first time for everything).  Or perhaps (and I think this is the most likely option) they were trying out a new doggie-jedi-mind-trick on me (in which case—it worked.)

I’m resigned to that fact that I’ll never know what was going on in their wee heads that day (or any other day for that matter) but I can’t help but imagine how cool it would have been to have had the ability to look my girls in the eye and asked ‘What the . . . .?’  — and actually received an answer.

Now, that would be something to blog about . . .

Post Script:  
If my girls could have superpowers of their own, I wonder which ones they would choose?


Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Uncategorized


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‘Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.’ Orhan Pamuk.

I always thought I knew how to listen to my dogs.  I mean, I know they can’t tell me of the deep philosophical thoughts that wander through their minds when they are sitting, all sparkly-eyed and dreamy in a patch of sun, or what they are thinking when I look up from my book and find them gazing thoughtfully at me, but if I listen closely enough I can usually tell when they’re happy, or scared, or hungry or grumpy.  And most of the time that’s enough.  We rub along quite happily.  But sometimes, just sometimes, one of them will do something totally unexpected and out of character and I think how cool it would be if they were wearing one of those dog translator collars (a la ‘Dug’) and my bewildered “What the ??? ” would elicit some sort of lucid response . . .

I have written before about the joys of ‘bath day’ in our household (‘Anyone who doesn’t know what soap tastes like . . . )  It’s always a bit of a drama and something I only put the girls (and myself) through about once a month.  Unless of course on one of our daily walks Maudie decides to dive head first into the scungiest, smelliest, most disgusting pile of dead ‘something’ she’s just found in the park. (Oh joy!)  By the time I managed to chase her away from the whatever-it-was (or used to be) she was black and reeking—and extremely pleased with herself.  I felt a tiny bit mean spoiling her fun and dragging her home to take a bath—but only a very tiny bit.  The only other option was to give her away to one of the local fisherman to use as bait . . .

None of my girls have ever liked baths so I was sure I knew what to expect. On realising a bath was imminent, Maudie would immediately adopt her floppy, unresponsive, dead-dog persona (although she doesn’t seem to have cottoned on to the fact that dead-dogs don’t normally squeal . . . ) Molly would run in frantic circles, barking madly, ensuring the whole neighbourhood was aware I was about to murder her sister (and possibly her too) and Mabel . . .  well, Mabel  would creep silently away to find herself a deep, dark, quiet place to hide and ‘wait me out’ . . .

Imagine my surprise then, after wrangling Maudie into the bath (and actually getting some water on her—she’s a squirmy little sucker) I turned to find Mabel sitting quietly on the bathroom floor next to me, watching the proceedings with interest.  “Oh.  Hi Mabes.  Have you come to watch Maudie have a bath?”  Mabel wagged her tail and smiled at me.  Well, okay then.  This is new . . .

Even more surprisingly (and in spite of several further earsplitting Maudie-shrieks) Mabel stayed, peering over the edge of the bath as Maudie was shampooed, rinsed, and shampooed again.  (If I didn’t genuinely believe that dogs were better than humans I might have wondered if there was a little of the old ‘schadenfreude’ going on there . . . )

I hadn’t intended to also bath Mabel that morning ( because Mabel was a good girl . . . Mabel hadn’t rolled in some decomposing dead thing) but after Maudie had been dried and released and fled the bathroom (doing her usual four laps of the house and frantically flinging herself into every cushion, pillow and other soft furnishing she could find) Mabel continued to sit calmly beside me . . . almost as if she were waiting . . . I decided to take a chance.  “Sowhat do you think Mabes?  Does Mabel want a bath now?”

I honestly expected her to bolt.  I really did.  I thought it was some kind of new game she was playing with me.  Feign interest and then run for her life.  That’ll be a good game.  But no.  She let me take her collar off (usually another ‘no no’), stood quietly while I got the water to the right temperature, and happily let me repeatedly lather her up and rinse her off.  No shivery shakes, no sad ‘why me?’ looks, no trying to escape as soon as my back was turned.  She even seemed to be kind of enjoying it . . .

So what happened?  What changed between last month and this, after years and years (eight years to be exact) of trying to avoid a bath at all costs?

I have absolutely no idea, and I suppose I never will.   But I’ll bet there’s a good story there.  A story I would love to hear.  If only we all spoke the same language . . .


Posted by on April 21, 2017 in Uncategorized


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