When Dogs Speak

Wuf! Woowoo woof!

That’s dog speak. Roughly translated, it means “Wake-up, wake-up, WAKE-UP.”

Okay, so it’s 10:48 am and maybe I should be up already, but I’m celebrating Sleep-in Saturday. Yeah, it’s a little holiday, I made up. Pretty awesome, right?

Max is looking at me from the end of the bed, tail wagging. He can’t get all up in my personal space because Ramsey is blocking his path to me. God bless her.


“Go away. Go lie down! It’s too early, Max.”

Max can tell time. “Woo wulf!”

I roll onto my stomach and he jumps on the bed. He nudges my neck and my ears trying to get to my face. Stan hollers, “GET DOWN!”

Back on the floor, Max positions himself next to the chest of drawers, rhythmically beating its side with his tail. Bam bam. Bam bam. Bam bam. When I look at him, he leans in closer, barely containing himself, and whines coaxingly.

Alright. I’m up.

I pull on my yoga pants and red parka and walk him out to the dock. Ramsey shuffles along behind. Somewhere in the brush, I hear Tucker bouncing around. Only Max is on a leash because Max can’t be trusted.

“I wish I could let you off leash, Max. Really, I do. I’d like to see you run around and play with Tucker. But I know you will bolt.”

I’m sitting on the built-in bench on the dock that reaches out into the marsh. Max sits beside me watching the egret across the water. He’s pretending to be well-behaved.

“I always come back,” Max says.

I glance at him, surprised by his command of the English language. Or perhaps, its me, and I can suddenly understand dog speak.

“You do, but why run? Don’t you like living with us? Don’t we take good care of you?”

20121124-165841.jpg“I LOVE living with you.” He says this both fiercely and matter-of-factly. “I have my own bed to sleep on. Two beds in different rooms. I have toys. I’ve never had toys. Ever. I love my toys. I love to toss them and catch them and make them squeal. I get food everyday, twice a day, and you never forget. Never, not once. You always put water out and refill my blue bowl when it gets empty. You clean my ears when they hurt and take me on walks. You hug me and pet me. And talk baby-talk. I like baby-talk. You rub my belly. You are my humans. I love my humans.”

He is quiet for a moment. “And there is the man. I LOVE the man.”

He is talking about Stan. You would just have to see them together to understand.

“You didn’t love him at first. Do you remember? You seemed . . . afraid of him. You would cower and keep your distance. As if someone, some other man, had hurt you in the past and you didn’t trust him.”

“There was a man like that. Once. I do not speak of him.”

He continues to look out across the water but his eyes are sad.

“Is he the one who gave you the lightning bolt? The tattoo on the inside of your right thigh?”

He is quiet. His ears perk as a fish leaps from the water. He doesn’t want to talk about it.

“You know when I saw it, I wanted to rename you Harry. You know, Harry Potter? Because of the lightning bolt?”

He does his best RCA dog impersonation. Note to self: dogs don’t get pop culture references. I change the subject.

“What about Jerri? You didn’t seem to recognize her at first but then you seemed happy to see her.”

“She is different now.”

“Different, how?”

“She is . . . tamer.”

“What do you mean, Max? How is she tamer?”

“She was . . . like a creature in the wild without a human to care for it. Hungry, scrounging for food, dirty, with claws, terrified. Muttering, always to itself. Crying out, unexpectedly. Not sleeping for days. Then sleeping without waking. Like an injured creature.”

“And what did you do, Max, when you lived with her?”

“When she was . . . lost, I lay beside her. I kept her warm. I sang to her. I brought her back.”

“But who cared for you, Max? How did you get by?”

“Mostly there was food in my bowl. I would save it. When it was gone, there was the bag in the closet. I could get into it. Or plates of food she had partially eaten on the floor. Sometimes there was no water in my bowl. But there was always water in the big white bowl where the baths happened. Sometimes I needed to go out and I would cry and I couldn’t bring her back. When my insides hurt from holding it, there was nothing else but to relieve myself on the brick wall. I was ashamed for defiling my den. It is shameful.”

“Max, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

He turns and hoists himself up by his front legs to lick my face. Getting down, he places his head in my lap and closes his eyes as I smooth back his fur.

“I have known joy,” he says. “I have tracked the deer through the woods to their secret place. I have splashed in the cold creek and wallowed in the grass. I have rolled on the muddy hill. I have run full out with the wind in my ears. I have slept under the stars and in the warmth of the sun beam. I have been touched, and held, and snuggled. I have loved my humans. I have known love.”

“You’re a good dog, Max. No. A great one.

“I confess, I didn’t want to take you in at first. But how could I not? I’m sorry about your time with Jerri. She was sick and not in her right mind. You were good to her. i don’t know if she would have made it without you. But it’s your time now, Max. To be taken care of. To be loved. And I do love you, Max. Even when you disrespect Sleep-in Saturday.”

“I know,” he says. “Now, where’s my breakfast?”


5 Comments on “When Dogs Speak”

  1. Heather Jones says:

    Hey Terri .. I am hooked. I didn’t see an easy way to change my e-mail address to my personal one. Can you add me and I will remove myself from the other one… Love the Blog.. how fun.

  2. Max is lucky to know love with you and Stan. Dogs love unconditionally like no other. Do you remember the lab I got from BJ’s sister in Nj that was in a rescue center? I loved him so much. Ansd, of all our animals, he loved me most. Everyone else loves Spud the most. 😦

  3. Renee says:

    So . . . I am so crying right now. Today of all days to read this. My daughter works at a kennel and someone brought in a dog they found on their porch. They said they did posters and such but no luck. Miranda wants to keep it until a foster home is ready. We don’t know her history but she looks to be pretty young and has already had pups. I think she might be a pretty lucky dog right now. I may just give up on ever being able to replace my carpet! That story was well done!

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