This weekend marks six months since the grand arrival of Nala and 23 of her Taiwanese foster brothers and sisters. When I mentioned this to Kali this morning she looked at me as if to say, “who’s Nala?” and promptly went back to sleep. I nudge her and ask, “Don’t you remember being called Nala before you arrived from Taiwan in America and joined our family?”. Kali: “Zzzzzz”.
“Come on Kali – you must remember. This was a big deal for you. It was a life changing event”.
Kali looks up at me and with her big sweet brown eyes now open wide and keenly alert. She’s sits up and stares directly into my eyes. Her breathing quickens. Her head tilts slightly When I ask again if she remembers once being Nala. Kali opens her mouth and to my amazement she speaks. I mean actually speaks words. In clear distinct voice she says, “You realize I’m a dog right? So while there may be a chance that at some emotional or instinctive level I remember this event you refer to and this thing called Nala it’s highly unlikely that I can intellectualize the experience. It’s even more unlikely that I can articulate my thoughts in a way that would be understandable to a human. I mean no disrespect and of course I love you more than you’ll ever know. But, as I said, I am a dog. You do know that right…?”
At this point this post could go in several directions. Which makes most sense to you?
The Obvious Ending
“..you do know that right?” I wake up and look over at Kali still sound asleep even thought the light is beginning to shine in though the blinds. I’ve always had very vivid dreams and can remember many of the dream’s details even weeks and months after waking up. This dream with Kali was pretty cool but honestly speaking I don’t know if would really want her to talk. I was a little intimidated by Kali’s masterful command of the language and frequent usage of five syllable words. Then there was the cleverly ironic manner in which she used those big words to tell me that it was crazy to believe she could rationalize her own emotions. And frankly, I was a little put off by her posh British accent. I mean, where the heck did that come from?
The Practical Ending
“..you do know that right?” It’s fun to muse about dogs talking but there are a lot of situations where it would be very cool to have a real conversation with your dog. What if they could understand relatively complex concepts. For example time. If only Kali could understand what I mean when I tell her, “We’ll go for our walk later.” This way she’d know that I haven’t forgotten. I can hear a rational Kali responding with something like, “Ok, I’ll take another nap and you let me know when you’re ready.”
It would also be helpful at certain times if dogs could articulate their desires and emotions with words. For example, Kali: ” I know you don’t like me eating the decorative figs that fall on the ground but if you would pick them up more regularly I wouldn’t be tempted”. I’d know that she was trying and not simply ignoring me, but it would be helpful if the figs weren’t there to tempt her.
Or, Me: “What’s bothering you? You seem a little lethargic today.” Kali: “I ate a couple of those dried up figs that you keep forgetting to pick up. Oh, yeah and I ate some of a green apple that fell on the ground this morning. My stomachs just a little upset. After I eat some grass I’ll be fine”. Worries mitigated and trip to the vet avoided.
“..you do know that right?” Then I snap out of my silly day dreaming and see Kali asleep at my feet. “Nala” I whisper. Kali looks up at me and thumps her tail on the ground. She does remember! Then I whisper, “Kali”. Same result, thump thump. “Agnes”. Again, same result.
And then it hits me. “Kali”, I say, “you respond to all the words I say. I don’t have to say walk. All I need to do is get up and put my shoes on. When we come to a street crossing I stop and you sit without me saying a word. You read my body language. When I do give a command you respond because whether you recognize the word or not you read my body language. You stare into my eyes waiting for me to tell you what I want and when I want it and you are always glad to oblige. So, I guess we do have real conversations, don’t we. Maybe it’s not so absurd after all that dogs could talk.”
Kali smiles and I see a thought bubble over her head:
“At last, he’s thinking like a dog. I’ve made good progress with my new dad over the last six months. He’s very trainable and definitely a keeper. My foster brothers and sisters would be so proud of me. I hope they’ve made as much progress with training their American families as I have with mine. Hey Dad – I’m looking at your eyes. Tell me what to do next ’cause I’m ready when you are”.