Ellie was trained, pretty well. She knew to put her paw on you when she needed something. She was just not too good at explaining what she wanted.
On her best day, she was a dog. Don’t expect them to be human, they don’t speak English.
But, they do understand it. In fact I think it is fair to say, they understand it better than you might expect.
When my nephew Jon was a toddler, he thought I was James Brown the Soul artist. You see, I can do a pretty good imitation of JB singing “Static!” from the song that was popular back then.
Now mind you I could not pass for James Brown at all, and while I am a fan of his art, I can’t say that a 6’4″ 220 pound White Dude could lead an iconic Soul group. Just don’t have the “background” for it.
The other day I was telling a friend how clocks work and some of the mechanical theory behind it.
For example, A Pendulum where the string or the shaft that holds the weight that is exactly 39.1 inches or 994 mm long is a special pendulum that swings once per second and back in another second is called a Second Pendulum. Connect that to an escapement wheel and a gear with exactly 60 teeth and you have your second hand.
Rack heard me talking and describing all this, walked over and sat down at my feet. He then looked up at me with rapt attention like I was describing the mechanics of the universe, and everything, and finished it with the meaning of life.
It is 42, just ask Douglas Adams. You can’t, he’s gone, but if you ask the mice and they give you an answer, you may do best to get a towel and prepare for the Vogon Constructor Fleet and the subsequent demolition of Earth.
The point is that Rack, the McNab SuperDog (TM) Is a superb dog. He knows how to Dog. He’s a dog of a lifetime, but that is because while I talk to him, I don’t expect him how to Human. This isn’t Family Guy and he’s not Brian.
Although if I could just talk to him with full comprehension for 15 minutes… please?
However that Non-Human-Person presents an interesting school of thought. People learn Language through repetition and what is important to them.
The first thing I start to teach a dog is “Show Me”. They will learn other things first. But “Show Me” is very important. If you show me correctly you get what you want.
My first dog, Lettie, learned this in a week or three. When she got older and lost her hearing all I had to do was to put my palms upward and she would walk to what she wanted or needed and I’d give it to her.
Much more efficient than rattling off a long list of things and being frustrated. She knew that and Rack does too.
But he’s not quite as perfect at it. Where Lettie was a lead of the pack Alpha, Rack is a definite Beta at the back of the pack of the beta dogs. He is learning that when I say “Show Me” I am giving him permission to ask for what he wants.
It’s not perfect, on his best day, but he gets things across.
And that’s the Dog in him. There’s miscommunication, lack of desire, and sometimes they just want attention. As you can see, Rack sometimes just sits at my feet or stares up at me with twin brown laser beam eyes and wags his tail looking for a little attention.
Attention is a good thing. Builds the bond. Even if it is just sitting next to the chair you are in while you’re surfing some mindless web page.
That is how I learned “BC” is Rack for “I am going to the front door and look to see if I can find my friend the little wiggly Border Collie from down the block”.
Rack met a young female Border Collie shortly after that dog moved into the neighborhood. She’s also a bit submissive, and her energy is the same as Rack’s is, so they get on extremely well.
Apparently I refer to her as The Bee Cee frequently because while paging through the internet, I made an aside comment under my breath. I said “oh, BC”.
“Oh, another thing you learned! How about that!” I’m learning Spanish so I can get out of the house without alerting him on the weekends. For other reasons too, but teaching the people in the house that “Listo!” means I am ready to go is so far something he has not learned.
On the other hand, he knows I’m going somewhere because of the order things happen in preparing to leave. I get full on ears up, tail wagging, brown laser beam eyes, and that gaping mouth open smile we all know.
“Sorry, Rack, You Stay Home and Watch The House” results in his leaving the room after dropping the act with ears dropping, tail drooping and him begging other people.
Yes, Saturdays and Sundays can be annoying unless I actually find somewhere we can take him with us.
I’m in trouble when my dog learns Spanish. Maybe Sign Language next, although dogs understand that. We’ve already resorted to texting in the house so as not to tip off the boy.
So yes, on his best days he’s Still a Dog, but Oh What a Dog!