DID you ever see two friendly dogs meet when one tried to tell the other of something he had discovered, when they touched noses, stood for a moment in strange, silent parley, then wagged their tails with mutual understanding and hurried off together on a canine junket?
That was the little comedy which first drew my attention to the matter of animal communication, many years ago, and set my feet in the unblazed trail we are now to follow. And a very woodsy trail you shall find it, dim and solitary, with plenty of “blind” spots where one may easily go astray, and without any promise of what waits at the other end of it.
One summer afternoon I was reading by the open window, while my old setter, Don, lay flat on his side in the shade of a syringa-bush. He had scooped out a hollow to suit him, and was enjoying the touch of the cool earth when a fat little terrier, a neighbor’s pet, came running with evident excitement to wake the old dog up. Don half raised his head, recognized his friend Nip and thumped the ground lazily with his tail.
“It’s all right, little dog. You’re always excited over something of no consequence; but don’t bother me this hot day,” he said, in dog-talk, and dropped his head to sleep again.
But Nip was not to be put aside, having something big on his mind. He nudged Don sharply, and the old dog sprang to his feet as if galvanized. For an interval of perhaps five seconds they stood motionless, tense, their noses almost touching; then Don’s plume began to wave.
“Oh, I see!” he said; and Nip’s stubby tail whipped violently, as if to add, “Thank Heaven you do, at last!” The next moment they were away on the jump and disappeared round a corner of the house.
William J. Long, ‘How Animals Talk: And Other Pleasant Studies of Birds & Beasts (1919).
If you’ve ever wondered about what your pets might be excitedly chatting among themselves (or talking behind your back, for that matter! :p), you might find William J. Long’s book on ‘How Animals Talk’ to be of interest. Indeed, if animals could talk (in words, I mean) how interesting it would be to hear what they have to say to us.
I remember when I was a kid, I used to see my dog looking out through the metal grills from the balcony of our third floor flat to the streets below and the fields ahead. I would then go right up next to my dog, squatting down to her level and join her in looking out at the world from her perspective, just to have a better inkling of what might be crossing her doggy mind. It was my way of trying to connect better with her and be her friend, I guess, since she was the only four legged one in the house.
And I bet it must have been rather frustrating for her to find that most of her barks and whines went uninterpreted, or incorrectly interpreted, by her inept humans (especially with regards to matters such as food, baths and walks!).