The other day I mentioned how when I say “Good Morning” to my dogs, what they hear is something more like “Roll over: show me your belly, and I will give you one hundred belly rubs.” They are so sure of it, that if I attempt to stop after only a dozen – or even fifty – belly rubs, they protest. Darla moans and puts on her sorriest expression; Rosa Parks takes my hand in her mouth to guide it (foolish me, to have lost my way) right back to her belly.
If I absolutely have to move away before that job is done…if my knees are screaming that I have to change position or my bladder is crying that I’d better make a beeline for the bathroom…both dogs flop onto their side. They don’t speak, of course, but I can read their minds. Darla’s train of thought goes this way: “What the hell?? What’s going on?? Weren’t we comfortable?? Weren’t we good?? Where is she going??” Rosa Parks simply murmurs under her breath, “That selfish bitch!”
I think I’ve grown more tolerant as I’ve grown older…but there’s a definite possibility that I simply have more patience with dogs than I do with humans. When Rosa Parks scratches at the door asking to go out, then retreats to the rug to await her reward, I always calmly say, “Oh, you fooled me again,” as I give her a bit of kibble. When Darla and I – returning from our walk – encounter Rosa Parks at the end of the driveway, we all pretend she walked all of the way with us. “That was a nice walk, girls,” I say, as together we make our way back to the door. “I think we’re fine,” I say soothingly, over and over, as their agitated, sharp barking at the road truck nearly raises the roof.
When my daughters were young, we had a beagle that didn’t understand English; he responded solely to our tone of voice. The girls would demonstrate for visitors. They’d say, “Good dog, Joe,” in a stern voice; his ears would droop and his tail would go between his legs. “Bad boy, Joe,” they’d say in a lilting tone, and he’d come running with his tail wagging.
Dogs read so much into the tone of voice that it’s possible to vent quite a bit of frustration in words…as long as I mind the inflection. When I say “Good girls, outside and inside one hundred times” (as the dogs are tag-teaming for the treats I offer when they come back inside), it is with an even tone that never gives away the inherent sarcasm. “You have been in and out one dozen times already this morning and I don’t for a minute believe that your situation is so desperate right now that it couldn’t wait until I got done with my bath,” I say – in a sweet voice – as I walk, dripping, to the door.
“She falls for it every single time,” Rosa Parks thinks, with a smile.