The dog, as anyone reading this log may have guessed, is important. She is my spotted muse.
But she’s learning too many words. She figured out “walk the dog” quite early on. The phrase sends her into a frenzy of toe-tapping and double-takes, complemented by several trips to the front door and back, that no one wants to endure without ending it with an actual walk. Otherwise, she’s crestfallen, dejected, the original Sophia Loren of pouters, until we chase her down and strap on the harness.
(We have to use a harness because she’s a wild thing and would have no neck bones to speak of if we simply latched the leash onto her collar. Any living organism encountered on the walk must be attacked and mauled, which is not allowed, thus the eternal struggle between dog and dog walker. But she doesn’t like the harness much. When you put it on her, usually after much coaxing and cajoling, she stands still as a statue in the exact spot, her head down and eyes looking plaintively up at the author of her humiliation, until she hears the snap of the leash hooking onto it. Then she perks up and allows herself to be led out the front door.)
So we took to saying, after the dinner dishes are cleared and the pots scrubbed, something like, “Should we take you-know-who for a you-know-what?” But that only lasted a while, after which the phrase and its aftermath instigated the toe-tapping and wild looks.
They say it’s all about timing and observation–on the dog’s part–of various body motions, facial expressions and speech intonations that lets them “learn” what we’re up to. Apparently a dog (much unlike a cat) spends a great deal of its time studying its people for cues and motions that indicate future actions. Dogs are essentially behaviorists, with humans as their subjects (take that, Pavlov). Note the intensity of their gaze when you are engaged in behavior that may result in a benefit (cookie, walk, playtime) for them. They are drinking in your facial expressions, words, intonations, noting the time of day, analyzing the series of events to establish a plausibly predictable consequence.
My dog is especially good at this. There are no secrets remaining. I can’t even put my shoes on in the middle of the day without inciting a riot. (Morning shoes are fine – he’s going to work – but afternoon shoes indicate a possible “walkies.”) But we do try to stay one step ahead of her in the lexicon — we have the superior IQs, after all — so now we ask not if anyone wants to walk the dog or take the you-know-who- for a you-know-what.
No, instead we ask that, since it’s such a nice day, why don’t we “hoo hoo the ha ha.” Because we’re smarter than she is.
Ah, we’re not kidding anyone but ourselves. She’ll have it figured out inside a week.