I think I've only done this once if at all. Nevertheless I can't resist because of the topic. Below is my unedited newspaper column for tomorrow. Talk about apropos!
YOU BEST WATCH WHAT YOU SAY IN FRONT OF YOUR DOG
The other day I had a wonderful conversation with Diane (last name deleted) with whom I went to High School. She and her husband live out in the county after having been gone (as was I) for many years. They too discovered, despite Thomas Wolfe’s "You can never go home again" that you certainly can and it can be even better the second time around. Diane had called to ask me a question, to which I gave my opinion (which usually for me is a subtle way of saying, "I don’t know") and I say that a lot, demonstrating my extreme ignorance.
In any event, the subject came around to how intelligent dogs really are. She and her husband had owned a small poodle for many years that had died long ago and how intelligent the dog was. But then she told me something I’d never heard. Did you know dogs can spell? Seriously. If someone had told me that in July, I would’ve suggested they best get out of the sun. But I knew Diane and she proved her point. They know a couple who is baby sitting a dog for a member of the military and his family who have been deployed for three years overseas.
Most dog owners know that dogs do understand the human languages which I knew but to which I was reminded by the story of a man who had adopted a Chihuahua somewhere out West. No matter what he said to the dog, it would just sit there. Then someone said something in Spanish and the dog alerted and went right over to the individual. The dog only understood Spanish. This is also often proved by police dogs that are trained in Austria and when they come to this country their handlers sometimes have to learn to give commands in German.
But spelling? C’mon! Diane proved it to me by telling me that the dog their friends were baby sitting loved cheese. All you’d have to do is say "cheese" and the dog went ape. Now when the word :"Cheese" was spelled out ("as in do you want some C-h-e-e-s-e") the dog still understood and again would go ape!
That led me to do some research. I knew that dogs had the capacity to understand up to 250 words (cats only about 27 but that’s why I have cats, I didn’t want an animal smarter than I, except that with my luck Fran and I were saddled with exceptionally well educated felines, as all you regular readers are aware). One article I read was by a woman who stated that her dog understood complete sentences. And she demonstrated she was right! She said that where people make their mistake is trying to teach their dogs individual words such as "sit," "stay" "roll over," etc. or they use "baby talk." She maintains, with apparent veracity that you should talk to your dog in the same manner as you’d talk to another family member (minus of course some of the words frequently used when the children refuse to clean up their rooms). She swears that eventually the dog will understand the sentences. This admittedly works best if this process begins with a puppy. I don’t have space to relate another case here but I read of another incident wherein another dog owner proved to a stunned man standing alongside of him that his dog could and would act on somewhat more complex instructions, as running a non existent obstacle course.
I called my four felines together and explained my findings to them finishing with, "Isn’t that amazing?". They just gave me a bored look. Then Oliver stood up and announced, "Et tu Brute!" I just threw up my hands and walked out of the room.