NOT ALL CANINES ARE…DOGS…
(…especially those pocket-sized editions which only yap a lot)

Our connection with the canine species reaches all the way back to those very distant pre-historic times when we humans and wolves co-existed in a symbiotic relationship. That is, as species we both were predatory, group, or pack, hunters whose success depended upon that kind of collective effort, so in that sense we shared a common characteristic which ultimately established the bond which evolved from that into the form we call…dogs. Even today, after so many millennia, we still retain an atavistic fascination with wolves, and so, have particularly strong feelings of kinship for those canines that seem to display strong elements of that heritage. A heritage which also seems to have somehow transmitted a subliminal form of canine language a few of us can understand making us…dog people.

Of course, not all canines are…dogs…especially those pocket-sized editions which only yap a lot, and which city folks these days now literally carry around in their pockets or purse bags. While these have the appearance of being dogs, they instead generally react with bared needle-toothed hostility toward any strange human presuming to come too close to them, thus, unable to communicate with these, we simply go on our merry way, while smiling to ourselves as we recall a jokester’s remark about such creatures (how by applying some instant hair restorer his spouse had given him for his bald pate, he instead applied it to her pet hairless Chihuahua…and turned it into a ChiTzu).

Among the languages with which we communicate, socially or otherwise, some of us also speak “dog”. What we mean by that is that there is some kind of universal unspoken “language” among dogs, regardless of their breed, one which all immediately recognize when encountering a human who “speaks” it. Some humans have it…others…don’t. We apparently do since we’ve rarely encountered a dog which doesn’t instantly recognize that fact about us, and so is immediately willing to engage in mutual friendly interaction.

On some occasions, however, there are some who don’t react positively to our “dog speak”. A reaction which we suppose is due to their dislike for our “accent”, much as some humans might react to a foreigner mangling their language by putting the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllable while attempting to say – howdy- in their own tongue. Yet, when that happens, such dogs simply remain stiffly aloof in their manner rather than becoming hostile with us, while we then just politely excuse ourselves and quietly draw back. Even so, almost all eventually relent from that aloof stance and then come forward with tentative motions of muzzle and tail to indicate they’re prepared to be civil…if not familiar…just this once… with a human who is obviously a sincere wannabe… dog-whisperer.

 

We first learned of our “dog speak” capability as a young teenage school boy. Every day, while walking home from school, we had to pass a shoulder high stone wall enclosing a large lawn in front of an imposing Colonial style home looking down upon that grand space, the entrance to it being a simple two-yard wide break in its run. One day, just as we reached that point, briefly pausing there to admire the scene, a huge furry creature came bounding ferociously toward us, its snarling roaring growls and bared fangs suggesting it was ready to tear us to shreds as a consequence of our trespass.

Our instinctive reaction was to seek refuge in a nearby tree, but then, we saw that would not be necessary because that fearsome creature was firmly tethered by a wide leather collar and stout chain to a strong cable ending just short of that entrance space. Nevertheless we stepped back a pace, safely out of reach, as the poor beast was brought to a head snapping abrupt halt by that rig, leaving it whining and completely devoid of any further display of ferocity from its effects.

For a brief instant we both just stood immobile, staring at each other. The “creature” was a large Pyranee guard dog, the kind favored by Basque shepherds to protect their flocks. It was nearly a yard high at the shoulders, and probably weighed well over 100 pounds. Its great head had large eyes which bespoke of a sharp intelligence, ready for anything. All in all a very handsome and impressive form covered with a thick slightly shaggy cream colored coat, with only a few light caramel tints at its ears and its plume like tail.

After a few more moments we both simultaneously accepted each other’s presence, we, stepping slowly forward and extending our hands within its reach, while he, standing firmly at his tethered spot, hesitatingly touched them with his muzzle as his tail made two very slow side to side waves. Having thus exchanged civilities, we were now acquaintances, so we parted that day as such, each returning to their home, our farewell wave returned with a friendly woof and full wag of tail.

Everyday thereafter when we came by that “acquaintance” turned into exuberant friendly familiarity. A familiarity which others must have thought was a desperate struggle between us. It wasn’t, because our way of friendly greeting was to literally rush into each other’s arms in a great wrestling hug from his huge bear-like paws and mock growling, ending up rolling on the ground as if we were both in mortal combat. But it was only a game both of us enjoyed, because it made our friendship such a very close one, until, that is, the owner of that great grand creature came storming out of the house one day and put a stop to it. Such carryings-on were subverting the reputation of his dog’s ferocity as a guardian of his estate, and that had to cease. Thus we were banished and forbidden any further contact with him.

Even so, we still managed an occasional reunion of sorts when we crept low by that entrance, to be just close enough so our canine pal could crawl near, and happily slobber all over our hands and face for a few stolen moments with a human pal who spoke…dog.

CENTURION