Interspecies Communication

Many otherwise apparently sane scientists believe that we can, in fact, communicate with other species, if we only take the time to learn their “language”.  That they communicate with each other is not in dispute.  Think of the “songs” of the humpback whale; the clicks and whistles of dolphins; the various sounds that elephants make. 

Dog training is based on the idea that dogs can understand what you’re saying, or what you want–if not the actual “meaning” of a word as we understand “meaning”.  So I’ve put together a list of the most common communications I have with my dogs, one of whom I’ve had for six years, the other for nine.  We’ve had a lot of time to get to know each other. 

Fakename to dogs:  Come. 

Dogs (with sad and mournful looks):  We believe you are speaking to us, because you are looking at us and using That Voice.  However, we believe you are speaking Polish.  No one ever taught us Polish.  It’s not our fault. 

Fakename to dogs:  Stop digging! 

Dogs:  There you go with That Voice again.  We do get the part where mostly we’re supposed to stop doing whatever we’re doing when we hear That Voice, but would it be okay if we just kept going for another minute or two?  We believe there is a very tasty fermented acorn at the bottom of this hole somewhere, and we’ve already eaten all the rest. 

Fakename:  Quit barking! 

Dogs:  What?  Quit barking?  What about the part where that’s what you pay us for?  We thought we were doing a good thing.  Fine.  But next time you’re menaced by a squirrel, don’t expect us to help.  Oh look….there’s another one now!  Woof, woof, woof, etc. 

I would argue that cats are actually better than dogs at grasping your meaning and intent, but they give far less of a damn.  Here’s an example: 

Fakename:  Stormy, get off the pillow. 

Cat:  No response. 

Fakename:  Stormy get off the pillow now, or I will kick your ass. 

Cat:  No response. 

Fakename:  If you don’t get off that pillow in the next five seconds, I’m going to stab you in the heart and hang you from the oak tree in the back yard and let the vultures shred your still-living flesh from your body. 

Cat:  Yawn. 

Fakename:  That does it.  (Fakename pushes cat off the pillow.)

Cat:  Purrrrrr.

6 responses to “Interspecies Communication

  1. The pre-eminent canine-understood words in these parts are: squirrel, deer, rabbit, chipmunk, damncat (sorry, but the SO makes that one word), squeaky toy, puppy dinner, wanna go (out, for a walk). Folks tend to amazement at the number of words the resident dog “knows”.

    Love this (10-year-old) puppy. Showing those years a bit suddenly.

  2. Hi Fakename: If you haven’t already read Sara Gruen’s novel, “Water for Elephants,” I recommend that you do so. (Your reference to Polish made me think of this book — it’s a very enjoyable read — and I think you’ll like it.)

  3. Rocky, I have read Water For Elephants and thought it was fabulous. Good call–I see you know me well. (Fakesister, you should read that book.)
    Today a FB friend of mine posted the following comment (via Twitter, and we all know how dangerous that can be): “Glossolalia (speaking in tongues) is a gift not in that it surpasses understanding but insofar as it transcends language.” That, I figured is the exact problem with the dogs. As far as they are concerned, I’m exhibiting glossolia. I could be making sense. but not in a language that has of yet been introduced to Earth.
    My dogs do understand some words, just not the ones I want them to understand.
    I wonder if cougars understand English? That was a great post you did, Rocky. I actually saw that item on, I think, the Comcast Homepage. We usually don’t get a lot of interest in stuff that’s happening in Connecticut around here. Not that it isn’t interesting, it’s just that we are overwhelmed with our own stuff. Black bears in trees behind What-a-Burger, sharks in the Capital, etc.

  4. I think your dogs understand very well the words you want them to understand, they’re just not interested in conforming just yet.

  5. That is always the problem, Fakesister. Cats are more honest. Unlike dogs, they don’t even try to pretend that they really, really want to do what you ask. They both amuse me greatly. I of course eventually get my way, since I’m the alpha dog/cat. With the dogs, it only takes an escalation of That Voice.

  6. Good Post!

    Perhaps I will reply to this in code so as to not to tarnish my image as a heinous developer collaborator………….someday:)

    For today I will simply say we speak “Aggie!!!!!.”

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