Monday 22 January 2018

My Pet: Why I learned the language of dog

Jet the dog
Jet the dog

Brian de Salvo Gorey, Co Wexford

"Good morning, Jet," I greet my dog as he arrives at my bedside to inform me that dawn is coming up. He harrumphs an acknowledgement, and as I troop off to the bathroom goes back to bed with an audible sigh.

Jet knows there will be an interlude of half an hour before anything happens that will benefit him. He is a black and white Irish collie and a smart operator.

I always talk to my dog and he usually responds. He doesn't speak English but he understands a considerable vocabulary. For my part I have learned the language of dog; grunts, growls, the single bark for attention, the hyper barking when he's finally run out of patience. When initially denied his plan for the immediate schedule he will walk away chuntering.

If you don't believe dogs can mutter under their breath I have the evidence.

Jet is a rescue dog, six years old. We didn't get him until he was 18 months which is too old so, considering he didn't have the best start - he arrived with all claws broken - he has done wonderfully well.

He's a very civilised member of the household, gentle, polite, attentive and great company. Like most collies he's highly strung and his early experiences can't have helped but his single fault is a tendency to bark hysterically, particularly in the car. I have a suspicion he may have been abandoned in a car for long periods when his previous owner was at work or left to dig up the garden, hence the mutilation of his claws.

Understandably Jet is also proprietorial; he doesn't like me stopping to talk to friends when we go for our walk on the local strand.

His deep-seated insecurity has been exacerbated recently by the arrival of a charismatic cat who, despite being only a kitten, immediately established himself as top dog, if you see what I mean.

Household pets are always negotiating terms and some so-called experts would have you believe that self-interest is the only reason for their behaviour. Food, getting in and out of the house, warmth and comfort are their major motivations all right. They would be yours too if all your freedom was controlled by your owner. I dare say many a slave operated on the same self-help principle. But there are times when Jet demonstrates canine empathy.

It's all down to communication and definition. Jet is not a sub-standard human he's a dog and to get the best relationship with him you have to honour that difference.

And engage him in conversation.

Name: Jet

Finest hour: Taking charge when I'm away

Likes: Racing along the strand in Ballymoney

Dislikes: Boss cat Leo

If you would like your pet featured in this column please send a story of 440 words and a photograph to clearly labelled MY PET

Sunday Independent

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