I've often wondered what my dog and I would say to each other if he could actually speak. It occurred to me almost immediately that he does speak, as long as I'm willing to listen. I spent some time on translation, and did my best not to anthropomorphize Murphy's end of the conversation. That's tough, isn't it? To not make everything in our own image? It's fortunate that we don't succeed. It's a work in progress for me and probably will remain so, but at least I try. Ah, to be a flawed human...
Our last conversation at the park might have gone something like this:
Murph: I would like to go over here...I smell a squirrel!
Me: That's fine buddy, this is your time. Sniff away...
Murph: Please throw the toy...I will do anything just to ruuuun!
Me: Yes of course I will. I love to see you leap up to grab your Frisbee or to chase your bouncy ball. Your exuberance is contagious and it makes me laugh. Go get it!
I throw the toy until it feels like my arm might fall off. I watch Murphy leap and spin and take off running like his little stub is on fire. All the while I can feel the happiness coming off him in waves, and can almost feel the tension leaving his muscles with each fluid and powerful stride. I launch him like a rocket with each throw; he dutifully returns to my side with his toy every time. It's a game we know well and that both of us enjoy.
Murph: I'm worn out now, but want to keep chasing. THROW IT!!
Me: Enough running buddy, but lets walk for awhile so you can cool down. Why don't you and your nose go exploring?
Murphy revels in the relative freedom of his long line. After years of work and the acquisition of impeccable off-leash skills, the line is merely a formality. Even so, it keeps him safe and makes me feel better too. I connect it to a harness so there's no tension on his neck, and Murphy feels 'free'. He sniffs at all the delicious smells; dogs and squirrels and things I can only imagine with my limited senses. I wonder what he thinks.
Murph: I see a dog...It's coming right at me. What do I do what do I do what do I do...oh yeah, I run to you. It'll be okay, I run to you and you feed me and smile and tell me I'm awesome. I can do this I can do this Oh no it's coming closer I can do this I don't know if I can do this....
Me: Good job buddy. You are awesome. Sit behind me. I've got this.
Me to interloper dog while gesturing emphatically: NO!!! Get lost!
Me to dog's owner: CALL YOUR DOG!!!
The dog finally leaves and we continue to walk. Murphy slowly returns to his 'sniffun', but continues to spare a nervous glance over his shoulder in the direction the other dog came from. Eventually he is calm and relaxed again. It seems like a lot to worry about, to have to be constantly watchful so that my dog can feel safe. To be so unpopular with the 'friendly' dog crowd. Maybe it would be so much easier to have a dog without 'issues'. Maybe. But this is only one side of the story.
Another day may look something like this:
Me: I don't feel like going. I don't think I can handle it today.
Murph: Yeah! We're getting ready to go somewhere!. It doesn't matter where, car trips are awesome! Hurry hurry, get ready lets go!
Me: Okay buddy, if you say so. I can do this. Right? I can do this...
We get in the car. Murphy is impeccably well-mannered as always. He looks out the window but doesn't stick his head out. He never makes a sound no matter what we pass. He calmly observes the landscape as it slides by. We arrive at our destination, and Murphy stands up.
Me: I don't know if I can do this today.
Murph: Oh goody! A visit to the doctor! I get treats in there sometimes. Lets go!
Murphy waits calmly while I put on his leash, then unceremoniously jumps from the car. He looks at me with soft eyes and wags his stub with enthusiasm.
Me: I don't know if I can do this. I don't know. I don't know if I can handle this today.
Murph: Hang on to me. I've got this...
And he always does.
Murphy is exceptionally good at his job. Maybe it would be easier for him to have a person without "issues", but he doesn't seem to mind. This is the other side of the story. He loves and gives without resentment or complaint. He speaks with his eyes and with the honesty of his tireless enthusiasm. I have no right and no room to complain. We humans could learn a lot from conversations with dogs.