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If Only Dogs Could Talk

Rover (our foster dog) finally agrees to a candid, no holds barred interview. Turns out dogs have a lot on their minds.

“Alright, buddy. What would you say if you could talk to me?”

Another Saturday winter morning, and we’d just returned from the morning stroll. Two pees, lots of sniffing, a solid poop, and we’re back inside. Rover, our 9-month-old doberman-hound-great dane mix foster dog, had just gobbled down a two-scoop kibble breakfast and lapped up a full bowl of water. And as the rest of the world still contemplated waking up, Rover and I’d already ticked off several early morning to-dos.

Chill time! I grab last week’s NYT and my reading glasses as Rover flops on his back on the couch beside me. I scratch his belly, scanning the Opinion page.

What are you reading?” 

My head snaps in Rover’s direction. “Did you just speak?”

Surprise!” Rover wiggles on his back, a combination morning stretch / self backscratch. 

“Dude… You can freakin’ talk?!?

Don’t get used to it.” Rover licks his privates clean, then looks back at me. “I’ll grant you this one conversation, then it’s back to nothing but…[BARK BARK BARK] that too-familiar baritone scream/growl echoes loudly off the hardwoods, a wrecking-ball to our peaceful morning vibe.

“Shhhhhh.” I stare at Rover in stunned silence. I’d often imagined how a dog might sound in human voice, half expecting an overdone, ah-shucks Scooby-Doo drawl. But this voice was thoughtful, intelligent, but childlike. Rover sounded a lot like Owen Wilson in Cars.

My excitement meter spiked. I toss the paper and my glasses and reach for Rover’s face, a fresh, thick layer of morning drool dripping from his lips. I was at a loss for words. Thankfully, Rover wasn’t.

Ask away. They’ll be up soon.” Apparently the timer on this was ticking.

“So what’s the deal with chewing on everybody’s shoes?

Rover smiled. “My mouth is kinda like where I operate… where I, uh, process.” He stared with passing interest at my sneakers. “They have a unique smell, a texture… a story.” 

Rover hopped off the couch and scooped up one of my wife’s heeled shoes she’d left on the steps (oops!), then dropped it next to me. “See this one, it’s waxy.  Doesn’t retain any interesting smells. One or two bites in, and frankly… I just don’t care.”

“My wife will be very happy to hear that.”

Women’s shoes suck, to be honest. Sneakers are good, but they’re too easy. The foam shreds like fast food, and you’re done. Now, the best ones are men’s adult leather shoes. A nice tongue, a hard, flexible wide sole… and the flavors….” 

Rover stares longingly up the steps towards our bedroom, where all my shoes happen to reside.

Those… ahhh… like fine cigars. I take my time with them.” His drooling momentarily accelerated. 

“What about cats? On Tik Tok, cats and dogs are practically in love with each other. Why don’t you and Olivia get along like that?” [Note: Olivia, our 12-year-old housecat who until recently roamed the house with regal impunity, now clings perpetually to our bedroom ceiling.]

That one won’t give me the time of day. That prissy little queen won’t ever play, not even with you guys.” Rover cocked his head, looking sad. He reached over and licked my face. “I can’t love you guys enough. What is it you call it when you pick Olivia up at night?”

I thought for a moment, and it came to me. “Forced affection?”

Yeah, that’s all you have with her… Forced affection.”

“Kinda like what you do to us a lot, wouldn’t you say?”

Rover paused. My comment stung him a little.

I’d say to that, that it’s better to feel affection for another being than it is to perpetually resist receiving their affection.” He rested his head in my lap as that sunk in.

“Maybe you just try backing off the aggressive barking with her. You’re freakin’ huge compared to her. A little intimidating, maybe?”

We sat quietly for a time, until the sound of a truck pulling into the driveway broke the silence. Rover leaped off the couch [BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK], massive paws thumping across the hardwood floor. I jump to my feet, following him to the front door. 

“Rover, Jesus… it’s just the UPS guy. Relax.”

After tossing the brown manilla envelope (something for my wife) on a table, we head back to the couch.

“Okay. I wanna talk about the barking. My god, that is so…”

We bark just like you people talk… and let’s be fair, I bark only a little bit here and there. You guys talk all damn day. You go on and on and on about everything. Gimme a break. When is it ever my turn to talk?”

“Can you really understand what we’re saying?”

Yeah. I do. Well, not everything. I can’t really look up some of your more snooty words, like obsequious or vicissitude.” He waves his front paws up at me. “Look, no thumbs, so, no iPhone for Rover. But we understand the feelings you bark out all the time, and frankly, some of it’s offensive. But don’t worry, I’m hard-wired to forgive you… always.”  

He cocked his head again, in his uniquely familiar way. “Just don’t push it.”  

A sudden foul odor permeated the living room. I wave my hand across the space. “Ugh… dude, let’s talk about all the farting.”

Rover flipped and sat up straight. “Seriously?!? Are we really gonna go there? How many times have I covered for you, right in this room. You forget I have a super sophisticated sniffer. I’m onto you. She may not be, but…”

“Okay… okay. Let’s just not go down this road.”

Let me ask you a question. Why the leash? Why? I deal with it, but I gotta say, it really pisses me off.”

“How do I know you’re not going to run away?”

Hold that thought. Let’s just say that we establish I wouldn’t run off.”  His eyes twinkled, carefully guarding his thoughts. “Then, why the leash?”

“Well, Rover. In society, we have a lot of rules, and we have to respect other people’s property, and their…”

Okay… this ‘society’ you people have here is of your own making. Not mine. It is not in my species’ nature to be led around on a leash, or to be forced to sleep in a cage. If I had one wish, and one wish only, it would be to have the free will to come and go as I please.”

I sat dumbfounded as this big, furry, Lightning McQueen continued.

You people, you’ve created quite the societal construct. You’re the boss of everything. Don’t get me wrong, I really love you guys and this house. But this daily rhythm you’ve got me on… it isn’t my thing. It’s yours. I’m adapting to it, and I do love it that all this food and warmth and attention you give me, but it’s always gonna be weird for me. For any dog, frankly.”

“Rover… I don’t… I don’t know what to say.” I look down, then all around the living room. “You know, they think they found a family that’s gonna be your forever home.”

So you guys don’t want to adopt me?”

“I didn’t say that.” Never in my life did I dream I’d be having a verbal conversation with a dog, and that I would be the one at a loss for words.

“We do, but in order to take care of you, as you put it, in this ‘societal construct,’ we don’t have other dogs for you to play with, or kids for you to interact with, or, well, the energy to match yours. You’re a puppy. We’re getting old, buddy.”

Rover stared at me for several seconds. He licked my face. I again took his face in my hands.  “We love you, buddy. Always will. We will miss you, but I know you’ll be happier.”

“Morning, boys.” My wife started down the stairs. Rover turned and strutted towards the steps [BARK BARK BARK].

“Were you on the phone? I thought I heard other people.”

Devin Householder

Devin is passionate about writing, reading and remaining in emotionally harmful relationships with losing sports teams. He suffers quietly (except on Sundays) with his loving wife and daughter in Rhode Island.

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