Bill the Dog was not feeling well yesterday. His digestive system was acting out…out at both ends and it was not pretty. Everyone in our humble household went into dog-sympathy mode and began jabbering at Bill as if he were a helpless newborn infant. Not me, though. Okay, maybe just a little heart-tug on his behalf.
I often try to rationalize with our dog. I have to catch myself every time I do this because, really, Bill hasn’t a clue as to what I am talking to him about most of the time. Oh yeah, he understands the basic “outside?” and “sit/wait,” though he responds to these commands on his terms only. He also most exceptionally understands “treat?” Beyond that, there isn’t much hope for the two of us ever negotiating world peace.
Bill the Dog (only I call him that; to everyone else he’s “Bill” or “Billy”) is ten years old. He’s a pure-bred Maltese but we’ve never done anything with that. That would mean training him and I am, well, just not the dog training type. I am anything but a dog whisperer. I’m more like a dog shouter and screamer. So Bill the Dog is basically an ordinary home-bound mutt who yaps at anything that walks by the house. God help them if they attempt to enter. Bill the Dog may be small, but he is snarly and has teeth that would give Cujo dental envy.
Bill the Dog has it pretty easy. He has a nice air-conditioned family room and adjoining kitchen where he hangs most of the time. He would be allowed the run of the house if not for his insistence on doing his “male thing” in inappropriate locations.
He goes outside many times a day. Where he is attached to a run of about 15 feet that connects overhead to another run of cable that goes the length of the yard. So, he has pretty much access to the entire yard and all the lizards, frogs, ducks and geese that roam our vast acreage. His line is restricted just far enough so that he cannot reach people who walk by our house along the canal. These folks would surely sue us if Bill was not tethered (he has a nasty habit of digging his canines into human ankles). So this is Bill the Dog’s life. He gets fed every day and Rosemarie bathes him weekly and she even shaves him bald and trims his whiskers once a month. He gets more treats than I do dark chocolate.
Now all this being said, the only thing I want from Bill the Dog is a little respect. Is that too much to ask? Instead, he bites the hand that feeds him (yeah, he’s done that!). I keep asking him if he wants to go live in a junk yard. No answer. I explain to him how much his food costs and I ask why he doesn’t at least once in awhile acknowledge he’s grateful. No answer. I got him this nice cushy little dog bed and he spends a lot of time in it…sleeping. I ask him if he likes how soft and cuddly his bed is. No answer.
So here’s the issue—and I guess it’s more my issue than Bill’s: I find myself doing exactly the same stupid thing all pet owners do—they try to humanize their animal in an attempt to believe their pet understands everything they say. They actually think their pet has the capacity to grasp the meaning of every human concept. Their pet, they are convinced, possesses a thinking process that basically mirrors the working brain of any human over the age of twelve.
I think about this and then I look at Bill the Dog. He has a head about the size of a tennis ball. His brain takes up maybe one-third of his head. So his brain is about the size of the top half of a dinner roll. Now I ask you, how much human thinking can there be going on inside that tiny space? There’s only one small detail that makes me think God has made some kind of deceptive adjustment that allows dogs to go beyond the normal limits. Otherwise, how else do you explain how Bill the Dog…has me so well trained?