Wednesday, July 26, 2017

If dogs could talk

You already know how I give my pets a downright litany of nicknames, but what you might not know is that I also give my pets a voice.

I mean that not in the figurative sense (as do, say, the animal rights organizations), but in the literal one: I speak aloud what my pets are surely thinking, and each pet gets a voice tailored specifically to him or her.

The voice development process usually happens organically. I start out with a pretty generic voice every time—A slightly deeper tone than my own for the boy pets, a slightly higher and sweeter one for the girl pets. Yet somehow, over time, every pet's voice morphs into a perfect representation of their personality.

A never-before seen picture of these two clowns. Jack Jack is, as usual,
more asleep than not, while Bubalou is begging, "Tummy rubs!"

Our two dogs now have very different voices. Jack Jack, the one whose dominant character trait is laziness, got a low (but not too low) voice with a distinctly whiny edge to it and a hint of a lisp. Bubalou got a high-pitched, fast-talking squeaky voice, inspired by his boundless enthusiasm, pervasive anxiety, and (extremely piercing) yip that he lets out when he's especially distraught.

Once your dog has a voice, it just follows naturally that he will have a tagline or two. Here is the story of Bubalou's. 

Bubalou loves to go in the car. "We're going someplace!!" and "I'm coming with you!!" are two of his favorite lines when he can sense that we're getting ready to leave the house. He loves to be taken pretty much anywhere — for a walk, just outside, to the bathroom with you — but he really gets pumped to go in the car. After some observation, it became obvious that his favorite thing about being in the car was smelling the air around him. He could be perfectly calm, lying down obediently in the back, and you could crack the window and he'd be up like a shot, sniffing the air, clambering over everything and everyone to get his nose closer to the window. And what does he say while he's indulging in this little display of unbridled excitement? "SMELLS!" Loud and squeaky and with every ounce of enthusiasm a dog could muster. Bubalou can be quite talkative when he's excited, and much of his verbiage boils down to his enthusiasm for smells.

Another thing Bubalou likes to say is "I'm a bad boy!" He says this with great pride because, while cute and puffy and completely incapable of committing a vindictive act, Bubalou likes to think he has a wild side. He would never overtly disobey his humans (although he's stupid enough to misunderstand pretty much every command you give him), but he doesn't necessarily like to come when called. So when he's out wandering in nature, if he's far enough away from you, he'll pretend he doesn't hear you yelling his name. He'll just keep happily sniffing the ground, ignoring you completely. You know he can hear you, but he knows he's just far enough away to get away with it. Likewise, whenever he's out of sight, he takes advantage of that solitude to pee on something. Other than cuddling, his favorite pastime might very well be depositing his bodily waste in as many locations as he possibly can. When you come home to his latest masterpiece, he'll come running up to you, tail wagging, with a smile on his face, and you can just hear it in your head: "Look what I did! I'm a bad boy!"

Jack Jack, on the other hand, seems to have a healthy fear of being a bad boy, as evidenced by his submissive cowering when I come home to a mess (even if Bubalou made it!) so he would never go around congratulating himself for his misbehavior. Although personally I think his tagline should be, "I don't wanna do it," because he never wants to do anything except lie on the bed, that is not how things shook out. Instead Jack Jack's personal phrase is any variation on "I love grass! And girls!"

Jack Jack has an inordinate love for grass. If you take him outside (provided it's not raining, in which case he'll turn in to a statue and pout), he will shed his normally prissy demeanor and have an exuberant roll in the grass. The other thing he really likes is girls. He loves getting attention from any human really, but he gets so excited about meeting "pretty girls" that he loses control of his bladder when he sees them. Can you imagine what happens when he meets several pretty girls while he happens to be in a grassy area? Well, it has happened on the university campus, and I've seen him get so amped up that he's suddenly blasted out of the crowd and done a circuit around the mall that would make a greyhound proud.

Although Jack Jack has no chill around girls and grass, generally he thinks pretty highly of himself, and assumes that he is a necessary part of every activity. No matter what you are doing, he will stride right up to you and stand in a regal posture while staring you directly in the eyes. "I'm here," he'll say, with the unspoken part being "What are your other two wishes?" He uses this line especially frequently when you are eating, because he knows that it is his divine right to be fed your human food bite by bite, until it is all gone.

If subtlety fails, he will continue the conversation in a very courtly way: "I'm here, Daddy. I don't know if you noticed, but you have forgotten to feed me any of that delicious turkey you have on your plate. I suggest that you rectify this oversight promptly. I'm right here, waiting. I'm right here. I'm here."
"I can't believe you're taking all these pictures instead of feeding me."
Well, now, I could go on and on and on about the fictitious conversations I've had with my dogs, but I guess I'd better wrap this up into some kind of takeaway. And that is the following: It can be fun to have dogs. It can be fun to talk about your dogs. But the funnest of all is talking like you are your dogs!