There are two words that strike fear into our four-legged canine friends: “vet” and “bath.” Both stand out among the 200 or so words that Walter understands. These 3-letter words are probably the most alarming words in his vocabulary or as I refer to it, his Petsaurus. The mention of either term strikes the flea, I mean flee, reaction of his frontal cortex and gets him popping up and moving for cover. Outside it is deep under a Hibiscus hedge and inside directly to his man cave. He understands and reacts to language arts much faster than any sleepy eighth grader.
Words are important and Walter, my aging Golden Retriever, has a vocabulary equivalent to a child of 2 or 3.
The only difference is shedding, one does not have to vacuum up baby fur every other day. We all brag about our pets and I can only tell you how much smarter my quadruped is compared to other mammals in the animal kingdom.
Animal intelligence research has focused on undomesticated animals that are not considered pets.
We know how smart dolphins and chimpanzees are and much research has been devoted to identifying their language skill but apparently these researchers never had a puppy.
I would venture to say that these out-of-touch scientists neglected to notice what was sitting right in front of them. I guess Flipper wasn’t listening when told he was going to the groomer.
I was reminded of this earlier today as I prepared to take him in for grooming.
I avoided the “B” word, but he knew what was in store as he hunkered down, spread eagle behind the recliner, which we refer to as his man cave.
To counteract his intuitiveness I resorted to language that counters the effect. This could be “treat,” “cheese,” “cookie,” or “chicken.”
These words force him to make a decision, is the reward worth the inevitable? He ravenously gives in but with reservations.
His monthly grooming routine is stopping by the vet for an anal gland squeeze and then next door to the groomer.
Trembling as he gets out of the car, he assumes the “alligator” position as I drag him toward the pet clinic.
He knows what is in store and I am just glad it’s not the other way around.
The big Golden loves toys and has his own basket of chewed-on survivors including Lucky Llama, Goosey Gavin, Puzzle Toy, Tickle-Me-Trump, Stinky Sock, and others.
He can I.D. each by name, has his favorites, but likes to mix things up. He has advanced his communication skills to a point where he has now trained us. For example, he loves to play “The Game,” also known as Find the Treat.
The rules start by having him lie down and wait in the hallway to our laundry room while treats are being hidden.
Once 30 to 40 hot dog or jerky pieces are distributed throughout the tri-level house he gets the command to find the treat.
Our Mensa mutt wants to play this adventure game every evening.
In a not-so-subtle manner, he now initiates “The Game,” first barking to get our attention and then assuming his position at the end of the hallway. How can we say no to those big bright brown eyes?
My dogma is now kicking in. I better hurry up and Hide the Treats.