If dogs could talk, what would they tell us? Truthfully, I’m not sure we’d want to know!
The other night, it was time for bed. As is our nightly tradition, I took the dogs out for one last opportunity to use the bathroom before turning in for the night. Ollie, our 4-month-old golden retriever, bounded out the door with all the energy a puppy could exude and immediately squatted in the yard. He was quite satisfied with himself and immediately reported back to have his head petted and be told how good he is. I imagine if he could talk he would say something like, “Are you proud of me?”. After pressing himself as close to my leg as he can, he had enough, and back inside he goes.
In the meantime, Kylo, our 5-year-old shih-tzu on the other hand still hasn’t figured things out. Kylo walks in the backyard and just stands there. Not in the grass, but on the cement patio looking out towards the grass.
“Kylo. Kylo. It’s time to go pee.”
I step forward and push him gently with my foot out into the yard and he returns the gesture with a slight growl. Definitely glad he couldn’t talk then.
Now instead of standing on the patio, he stands in the grass staring at me. I know it’s been hours since he’s been out. He should need to go. Yet there he stands, blankly, staring back at me.
“If you don’t go now I’m going to put you in your crate and you won’t sleep in my bed tonight.”
At the word “crate”, Kylo’s ears twitch. I know he doesn’t want to sleep in his crate. When he was a puppy and was being housebroken he slept in his crate just like Ollie does now, except his crate was where he could see Chip, our now 16-year-old shih-tzu sleeping at the foot of our bed. Kylo was nearly 2-years-old before he was able to be trusted and for a few years, we shared our bed with two shih-tzus. As Chip has gotten older he has been unable to hop up and down and he has chosen to sleep in a dog bed in the corner. Kylo though was very proud of his spot in the bed.
Nearly 15 minutes later, still standing outside being stared at, and constantly verbally reminding Kylo of what he needed to do, it was time to crate him and head to bed. He’s super smart, but also equally stubborn. I know he’s mad about something and he thinks by not doing what I’ve asked that he’ll get his way. Problem is, I have no clue what he’s mad about, I’m tired, and I know he’s sneaky enough that he might just pee on my carpet in a place for us to find at a later date.
After putting Kylo and Ollie in crates beside each other in our downstairs guest room, I head up to bed. Normally it’s the puppy that I hear expressing his displeasure of being left alone, but not tonight. I can hear the shrill small dog bark of Kylo echo up the stairwell as I prepare for bed. It lasted for about 3 minutes, long enough for him to vocalize as best he could his displeasure for his accommodations for the night.
The next morning as I wake up and place my feet on the ground I can feel darts being thrown in my direction. There in the doorway of my room is Kylo. Did I mention that Kylo is a jet-black dog with dark brown, nearly black eyes? When he stares at you it’s like staring into nothing. You can feel it painfully stab you.
“What’s Kylo doing out of his crate? Has he been out?” I asked.
My wife Jennifer replied, “He took forever this morning but he finally went.”
At least he gave her grief too I reconciled but he still looks “not happy” with me. Man, I really wish he could talk I thought to myself.
As I continued to prepare for the morning I thought more about Kylo and asked the question in my head, why don’t animals talk? If animals were to go to heaven, are all the pets I’ve had in my life going to be lined up waiting to tell me the things that were pent up inside of them while they lived with me? What if they really hated me the whole time? What if I don’t like them when they start talking? Does that make me a bad person? Did God punish them by not allowing them to communicate verbally with us? These are real questions! Seriously, this is why I think these things in my head and don’t ask these questions out loud to my family. They’d hate me!
I summed up my deep thoughts with this: It’s really a gift that they don’t talk. In the case of Kylo, despite all of his neurotic tendencies (don’t get me started on how much he hates other dogs and really thinks he’s just a hairy human), he’s actually a very affectionate, loving dog. He loves people, really loves a good nap in your lap, and loves to help heal your hurts. That’s why he’s here and why we tolerate him. Not sure yet as to why he tolerates us.
Now as for us as humans, dogs teach us to read emotions. Yes, it would be easier if they talked, but learning to read their body language, the tone of their voice, are all things that help even in communication with one another. They’re teaching us just as much as we teach them.
There are moments, especially when they are puppies, I think what are we doing having this dog in our house. It’s all worth it when they race to greet you at the door when you come home at night. They don’t care where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or if the day was good or bad. They’re just happy to see you. Happy for your attention. Happy to have you home. They don’t need words to say that.