Saturday, December 14, 2013

Translation Barriers

You often run across people who will say that animals, particularly dogs, can't speak. I disagree; they just don't speak our language. It's the same as going to a foreign country, noting that you can't understand someone, and coming to the conclusion that the must not be able to speak. Pretty silly when you think of it that way.

Bast is a very effective communicator, although it took me a while to understand his language. There's a very subtle difference in Bast-speak between, "I'm hyper and want to play with you," and, "I'm hyper and I'm about to pee on something you cherish." I ran through an astonishing amount of carpet cleaner and white vinegar before getting that one down.

Bast, in turn, is learning some English and a smattering of French, since I shift between the two when talking to him. The combination of me learning his body language and him beginning to understand short phrases improved our relationship immeasurably. Now when he comes to the end of the couch and stands stone-still, staring at me like the little girls in The Shining, I can ask, "Are you wanting a snack?" and be rewarded with a lot of prancing and wiggling that I guessed the correct nuance of his stare.

I speak to him as if he were a person - no baby talk, here - and he keeps pace with my side of the conversation without much difficulty. I occasionally have to repeat things for him, if he tilts his head and indicates he didn't understand me, but we're like old friends now, conveying entire ideas with just a raised eyebrow or an ear laid back.

It's amazing how without being able to speak English, Bastas manages to win the majority of our arguments. I chalk his persuasive prowess up to my weak will where he's concerned, and the fact that reasoning with him is like trying to reason with a toddler pitching a fit. After all, smart as he is, he's still a dog and subtle shades of arguments escape him. This evening, we had an extended exchange of ideas where, as usual, he got his way.

I was typing away at my laptop when I noticed a pair of orange eyes staring at me:

Bast: nose-poke-hey-I-need-something-from-you
Me: What's a matter, pookie? Are you hungry?
Bast: head-tilt-ears-back-no-that-is-not-what-I-meant
Me: What, then? What's your problem, bebop?
Bast: I-need-to-go-potty-tap-dance
Me: Christ, are you serious? I just got out of the bath, my hair's still wet.
Bast: head-tilt-I-don't-understand-you
Me: A bath. You know, with the soap. You watched me do it, you sit in the bathroom and watch me every time I bathe because you're a creeper like that.
Bast: indignant-foot-stomp
Me: We went out like, 4 hours ago. You didn't take care of it, then?
Bast: taptaptapwhinewhinetaptap-I-didn't-need-to-go-then-but-I-REALLY-do-now
Me: Ugh, all right, all right. Don't shit in the house until I get my clothes on.
Bast: taptaptappantpantpantwhine-commence-frantic-circling
Me: Gah, I mean, don't shit in the house AFTER I get my clothes on, either. You know what? Just don't shit in the house, period. I'm getting my coat, I'm getting a poop bag, and we're going out. YOU WIN, DOG.
Bast: twirling-in-sheer-pleasure-aww-yisssssss-walkies

And thus I found myself wandering the streets at 10:00 at night in 30 weather, being tugged along by a creature radiating smugness with his every step.


  1. Love your posts. This is hilarious, and I absolutely believe that my dogs know some English, and are in the process of learning how to spell.

  2. It's nice to see that I'm not the only person who has conversations with their woofer. Alora and I regularly have little talks where she also typically gets what she wants, because spoiled.