Man’s best friend doesn’t have to be a talker


There’s an ongoing one-sided dialogue between myself and my dogs. The reason I say this is one-sided is because it’s, well, one-sided. My dogs can’t speak. Well, not English, anyway.

I get whining noises from them on a fairly regular basis, or a needy look that leads to me opening the back door to put them out, making sure there’s water and food in the bowls or simply looking under the couch for a bone one of them might have lost during the carnage that is them eating a bone.

Sometimes, I get it right. Other times, quite simply, I do not. That’s when the frustration seeps in. I get frustrated because I can’t get the dog to leave me alone, and the dog gets frustrated because I won’t do what she needs.

“What do you want,” I finally ask. “Speak to me!”

That usually gets met with more whining and a quickening of the tail-wagging action. It’s kind of maddening, but also a little silly considering the verbal limitations of dogs. I realize that it would probably give me an instant stroke if my pug suddenly said, “Well, I was hoping you could grab me an Excedrin. My head is pounding.”

But it would make life a little easier — for all of us.

Just when I come to the realization that my dogs are not inferior because they can’t converse with me intellectually, I stumbled across a headline on msnbc.com. It grabbed me immediately.

“Montana dog becomes local celebrity for his math skills”

Yup. My dogs stink. This black lab, named Beau, apparently can count, add and subtract. His owner, David Madsen, said he started training Beau at a very young age, after he recognized the dog’s intelligence.

“Dave will say, ‘What’s two and three?’ Then the dog will go, ‘Bark, bark ... bark, bark, bark,’” said Chris Ricciardi, chief of the Finley Point-Yellow Bay, Montana Fire Department.

I instantly wondered if Ricciardi actually said the word “bark” in his interview or if he began making woofing sounds to the reporter. I can just picture a few of our own fire officials standing in front of the microphone and letting out a few well-voiced barking sounds and ...

But I digress. And I’m glad I stopped there.

Now, make no mistake about it, I’m a dog guy. But I get people who love their cats. Our own Shaun Lambert has a cat, and I know how much that feline friend means to him. I also know how much our Eskimo friend means to that cat. They’ve bonded, and I think it’s cool. But there are some people who take it to the extreme.

A story first reported by WJXT-TV in Florida focused on a couple in High Springs that has been arrested for hoarding 692 cats.

That’s right — 692 cats.

The couple reportedly owns Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary, and Alachua County Animal Services removed the cats, put them up in a makeshift shelter and had to put down about 100 of the cats for various reasons.

Pennie Lefkowitz, one of the accused, said the couple just wanted to help out as many cats as they could, and admits they may have gone overboard.

Again, I get it. I am crazy about my dogs, Shaun is crazy about his cat and most people just generally love their animal friends. But 692? I’m not sure Beau the Math Dog could count that high.

One thing I truly admire about my pug, Bailey, is her resiliency. She has had emphysema and asthma since catching kennel cough as a puppy, suffers seizures weekly and is just genuinely small — even for a pug. But she never backs down, wags her tail any time somebody pays attention to her and loves to play as much as the next dog. But I don’t think Bailey has anything on a Maltese dog named Caesar in New Mexico.

According to an Associated Press story, Caesar’s human family got in a car accident more than a year ago. The crash killed two members of the family and Caesar was lost. But the dog was found in a shelter last week thanks to its microchip, and Caesar was returned home.

“This is the best news we have received in a year,” said Monica Benson, who lost her husband and daughter in the crash. Another child, then-18-month-old Benjamin, was in an intensive care unit following the crash.

On second thought, I guess you don’t need your dog to actually talk. They can be pretty cool on their own.