While I was wandering aimlessly through cyberspace, I came upon some astonishing research about the quirks of human nature — and it had nothing to do with Donald Trump or Miley Cyrus. The survey, which offered a glimpse into how we behave, also had nothing to do with religion, politics or sex, not to mention money. “What else is left?” you might ask.
The poll of 800 New Yorkers, which was conducted by Siena College, found that nine out of ten people talk to their dogs as if they’re humans. For all we know, life in New York may encourage this kind of behavior.
The dialogue, or more appropriately the monologue, might go something like this: “Gimme some sugar, woof woof!” or “I need to brush you! Get over here!” or “Why the @!$*!#*@ did you pee on the carpet again?” or “What do you think of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics?”
Author Christopher Morley nailed it when he said, “No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as much as the dog does.” Yes, canines can be engaging conversationalists. More accurately, they are genuine listeners in an era when listeners are hard to find.
What’s so intriguing is that when dog owners aren’t talking baby talk to their pooches — and I know several in my home who do just that – they’re probably criticizing their kids or insulting their spouses, which means to say we talk more civilly to our pets than we do to each other. Perhaps we should treat our family members like dogs. Then, life would be better all around. We could even take them to Petco every so often for a night on the town.
Why do dogs get all that love? For one thing, when they’re not peeing on the carpet, chewing slippers and soiling the couch, they’re generally agreeable. They don’t quibble over our political views or complain that we’re watching too much TV or drinking too much Budweiser or running up credit card debt.
You see, the canine world adheres to the time-honored adage, “Live and let live,” at least until you try to eat out of your dog’s bowl or snatch his Milk Bone treats, and then all hell breaks loose. It’s well known that even Sigmund Freud, the genius of psychoanalysis who probed the depths of the mind, preferred dogs to humans.
The Siena poll also showed that 6 in 10 dog owners always talk to their pets. (Maybe no one else will listen to them?) I witness this behavior in my own home. My wife, Sandy, I’m ashamed to admit, talks to the dog more than to me, and the dog has a pretty amazing vocabulary. Sometimes we have to spell words so she doesn’t understand what we’re saying.
The other night I asked my wife, “Should I give her some ice cream?” She shook her head ‘no,’ but the dog had already heard the word “ice cream” and got so excited she raced into the kitchen and started scratching at the refrigerator. Then, she started barking and wouldn’t stop until she got a dollop of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia in her bowl.
The next night, to avoid another miscommunication, I spelled the word “i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m,” which I did for several days until the dog caught on – and I have no idea how she understood me, unless she’s been taking ESL classes at the groomer’s.
So I decided to test her abilities and asked, “Bella, would you like some S-k-i-t-t-l-e-s?” But she walked away. I guess her spelling isn’t that good after all — or maybe she knows that processed sugar is bad for your health.
When I’m not home, I’m sure Sandy carries on lengthy conversations with Bella. They debate politics, they discuss the economy, they watch Downton Abbey. I know because the dog has started barking with what sounds like a British accent.
Dogs certainly have a better understanding of life than we do. It was Freud who once said, “Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate in their relations.”
Just think what a wonderful world this would be if we treated one another the way we treat our pets. We’d all be dining on Gravy Train, and there’d be a steak bone in every refrigerator. The presidential campaign would be less insane. Instead of yelling during the debates like prison rioters, the candidates would sniff a private part, mark their territory and settle down for an evening of fetch. As a result, our government would run a lot more smoothly.