Dog linguists confirm latest human study

I always wanted a hunting dog.

The kind you see in magazines — sitting with flecks of snow on his coat, or running to flush a flock of grouse from heavy cover.

About eight years ago, my wife said “We should get a Springer Spaniel,” and I was certain that I’d died and gone to heaven.

The sad thing is that she also said we should find one that wasn’t (in her words) “hyper.” So, when we went looking, we’d call ahead and ask if any of the pups up for sale behaved in a fairly calm manner.

One owner said he had one who might be just what we were looking for and, so, off we went to look him over.

When we got to the farm, we found two puppies chasing anything that moved while alternatively rough-housing with their father. Off to the side, however, sat another puppy watching the proceedings with a look on his face that basically said, “Is it time for lunch yet?”

I had my misgivings about his hunting future, but he looked great, behaved well, and loved being held in my wife’s lap. Eight years (and many pounds) later “Monty” now sits quietly wherever my wife sits (usually in her lap) and only leaves her side when I mention the words “walk” or “ride.”

He loves “walks” because we have a path through some local woods and, there, he does, in fact, display his heritage by flushing whatever poor creature might be hiding nearby. By “flush,” I mean that he’ll take off on a dead run and launch himself into any bush in order to scare the bejabbers out of said creature.

The word “ride” elicits a run to the front door and a look in his eyes that says “I get to stand in the window, right?”

I finally gave up on the hunting thing because he hates being away from my wife and the whole time he’s out with me, I can see that he’s wondering when we’re going home so that he can crawl into her lap.

All of which takes me back to an article I once read that said that scientists had discovered that dogs could actually understand spoken words.

I once mentioned this to “Monty” whose facial expression said: “Well, duh.”

My wife and I have learned to be careful because of this.

If I wake up and ask if she’d like bacon with her coffee, Monty’s up and “all ears.” When I don’t immediately head downstairs, he notices. I’ll still be shaving and he’ll give me this look that says: “You keep fiddling around up here and none of us are going to have any bacon this morning.”

The word “bath” is something else altogether. That one will send him under my desk — a place from which I have to drag him with a leash. The look he then has basically translates to: “A bath? For me? You’re kidding, right? I had one just last month. I don’t smell all that bad and, another thing, you never make the water warm enough. Wonder how you’d like sitting in a tub of luke warm water.”

Too, after his bath, he pretends to have never once heard the word “Stop!” and heads immediately for our bed where he proceeds to roll around on the covers drying himself.

So, I wondered about that study. How much did it cost? How long did it take? Was it financed by taxpayer money? If so, why didn’t they just stop a dog owner and ask, “Can your dog understand what you’re saying when you talk to it?”

If that had been done, the whole study would’ve ended right there because any dog owner on earth would’ve immediately said, “Does a duck have lips?” And that would’ve been that.

Still, if scientists really need things to look into, there’s Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle (column coming), and Area 51 for starters. Further, I, for one, want Pluto reinstated as a planet.

Any one of these is probably good for a multi-year grant, but any further study on whether dogs can understand what we say?


Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to:

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