Life is confusing. People are confusing. People make life even more confusing. If you are a dog parent and want to help us dogs to be less confused, I have some tips for you. Foremost, remember we are dogs, not people.
As a dog trying to navigate a human world, I would say the most challenging thing to comprehend is the human communication style. It is inconsistent, finicky, oftentimes nonsensical and typically counterproductive. I’ll use barking as an example.
At home your dog barks and you yell “quiet!” which makes your dog think you are joining in on the barking, so he barks more. Then you give the famous “shhhhsssssssst!” which makes your dog think you are upset with him, but he has no idea why. Subsequently he gets anxious and barks louder until you yell “NO BARK!” which of course he interprets as barking and joins in with more barking. It all ends with your dog getting scolded, but he has no idea why. Pure craziness I tell you.
I recently watched the film “Arrival,” which is about aliens coming to Earth in what humanity interprets as a likely threat of colonialism but turns out that they are simply trying to save humanity from themselves. The hero of the movie? A linguist — someone whose profession is predicated upon understanding others.
In the film, the linguist urgently needs to understand the language of the “visitors” (before the humans try to blow their spacecraft to smithereens, and Earth with it) and when pressed for answers she replies, “kangaroo” and shares a mythological story on the origin of the word “kangaroo.” The story describes a misunderstanding between an Aboriginal and a colonialist in which the aboriginal man was replying “I don’t know/understand” to the question “What is that animal?” The colonialist confuses the Aboriginal word for “I don’t know” (“gangurru”) as the actual name for the animal and so the colonialists go around calling the tall grey jumping animals “I don’t understand.”
Communication takes effort and listening. The hero in “Arrival” knew this, applied it and saved the world. She knew the aliens had something significant to say, and she wanted to hear it. Not because she was afraid of what would happen if she didn’t (OK, I am sure that was part of it) but because she wanted to truly connect with these beings.
The best way to communicate with your dog is to truly listen to what we are saying and to understand why we might be saying it. We too want to be heard. We truly want to be a part of your world and also have an important message to deliver. I won’t spoil the ending of our story together as you need to figure it out yourself, but it might have something to do with love and connection interspersed with joy and gratitude.
My name is Buddy Blue (not because I am blue in spirit; I have a lovely blue and white coat). But I am more than just a handsome face. I am incredibly gentle and loving. I have undergone a difficult journey to get here but am quickly gaining confidence and learning that people can be good. I am happiest when cuddling and being with nice people and am ready for my forever people to come find me here at the Second Chance Shelter.
Second Chance Humane Society’s Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops have been servicing San Miguel, Ouray and Montrose counties for 27 years. Call 970-626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about our Emergency Response, Community Medical, Spay/Neuter, Volunteer or other services. View our shelter pets and services online at adoptmountainpets.org.