The Canine Art of Communication
Though he wears his privilege with a degree of insouciance befitting his humble nature, The Big White Dog is well aware of his exalted station within his family. How could he not be? There is, for instance, no piece of furniture that is off limits should he chance to require a nap. His dinner is never late, often cooked, and served in a fur-matching white bowl purchased just for him at Harrod’s Department Store in London. His advice is frequently sought by both The Lady and The Man and indeed, one of his serene, sapient stares seems to work wonders on both of them in equal measure. His dignified handshakes are not only affectionately proffered when asked for, but he is quite ambidextrous as well. Modesty prevents him, as it does most of his kind, from flaunting his expansive vocabulary but from many years of listening to, and often being read to by, The Lady, he does recognize a rather wide range of English words and even a couple of nonsensical German-sounding ones that appear, at least to his observation, to be reserved solely for moments of extreme toe-stubbing pain or irritation. Rarely does the need arise for The Big White Dog to parade his powers of comprehension and articulation, but one morning just last week, it did.
While it is no secret he would much prefer his pack of four stay together at all times, there are lapses, seemingly unavoidable, when one or the other of them chances to wander off on their own. The Big White Dog doesn’t like this one bit and has convinced his roommate, The Big Black Dog, to stay close at all times, though it is a different matter with The Lady and The Man. They seem to do what they want. He has learned, somewhat begrudgingly, to live with this though he is placed into a state of high vigilance whenever one or the other of them walks out the door. Such was the case last week when The Man ran out on an errand.
It was one of those early Spring mornings that always seem to cast a spell over The Lady. She moves differently - slower, dreamier - as though an invisible carpet of flowers was unrolled by genies in the night. She puts on music and hums along. She opens all the windows. She throws open the front door and latches the screen. She asks his opinion on the strangest things: the best sort of chocolate for bunnies, the best shade of pink for Easter eggs. Frankly, he frequently has cause to worry about her in Springtime. On this particular morning The Big Dog watched as she absentmindedly latched the front screen door after The Man went out. He saw her wander off, humming quietly, through the kitchen, down the hallway, through the bedroom and out of sight. With one pack member off in the car and the other out of sight in the farthermost reaches of the house, he decided to situate himself in the midway point of the kitchen. The hardwood floors are cool to his belly here and from this position he can easily keep watch over both parts of the house. So he waited.
Sure enough, he soon heard The Man’s car pull into the drive. A door slammed. He heard The Man’s trademark whistling as he opened, then closed, the gate. Then a tug on the front screen door which, as the Big Dog anticipated, yielded no result. A pause. He heard The Man call The Lady’s name. He waited, ears cocked. Nothing from the back of the house. He rose, trotted into the entry, and stood beneath the door, looking up at The Man. Perhaps he would hear one of those strange German sounding exclamations he sometimes chanced to hear in situations such as this. But no, not this time. Instead, The Man addressed him directly.
“Edward!”, he said with a smile. “Go get Mamma!”
The Big White Dog looked up in amazement. A direct order! He waited a second to make certain he’d heard correctly.
“Edward. Good Boy. Now, go get Mamma!”
The Big Dog turned immediately and with a purposeful trot, headed out of the entry, through the kitchen, down the hallway, through the bedroom, where he soon found The Lady in front of her mirror in the process of changing her lips from one colour to another, a daily activity The Big Dog has always found utterly odd. He stopped in the doorway and stared at her, hard. She turned.
“Hello, handsome!”, she said, smiling. She turned back to the mirror.
He stared. Harder.
She turned again. She stared back. “What’s up, Edward?”, she asked. He heard the flicker of concern in her voice and re-emphasized his stare.
All of a sudden he saw the penny drop. “Is Daddy home?”
The Lady looked at him quizzically for a moment, then turned to follow. He jumped and wagged his tail, moving out into the hallway and turning back to make certain she knew to come with him. She did! Through the bedroom, down the hallway, through the kitchen, into the entry and to the latched front door where she found a grinning Man.
There followed quite a lot of “Good Boys!!” and “Well Done, Edwards” but really, The Big White Dog found it all much ado about nothing. Just another of his often unseen feats of wonder done for the safety and benefit of his family. Whatever would they do without him?