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Dagney Communicates Better Than Most Humans

by Brenda Mahler 9 months ago in therapy · updated 2 months ago
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Speak up, ask for help, and listen to increase your happiness

Image from author’s photo album. Poster created with Canva.

Verbal and non-verbal are both important to communication. Dagney reminds us that words are not always necessary to send a message.

Dogs have a way of getting our attention. Dagney scratches on something, anything, nearby. At night when she needs to be let out, she scratches on the bedroom mirror. That noise, similar to nails on a chalkboard, gets me out of bed. During the day, a scratch on the door alerts us that a potty break is imminent.

Most recently, her intelligence amazed me after we moved her treats to a cupboard above the stove. She scratched on a lower cupboard, laid down and waited. It took me longer to figure out what she wanted than it took her to get my attention.

Unknowingly, we trained her to use her powerful hearing to know when we were done eating. When she was a pup, we started giving her one bite after we ate dinner. We didn't want her to beg and she doesn't. In fact, when we eat, she is often in a different room or outside. However, the moment we consume the last bite, she magicially emerges and sits quielty on the floor. I can't even figure out what cue lets her know when we are done with our meal. Me bad. She smart.

Dogs let us know what they want and need. We should follow their lead by making ourselves heard. Have you known people who do not speak up? The worst are those who then become disgruntled when their desires are not addressed.

OK, to be honest I used to be that way. I would assume my husband should be able to figure out what I wanted, and when he did not have a clue, truly innocent behavior on his part, I became unhappy. It is easy to feel sorry for ourselves in this busy, multitasking world while at the same time not provide the same curtesy to loved ones.

I even found myself being jealous of Dagney because she skillfully captured Randy's attention and got whatever she wanted. After watching Randy pamper and spoil our dog, I realized she speaks up and communicates.

So I tried laying on my back and whining a little to get his attention. That didn’t work. I then scratched on the side of the bathtub thinking he would know I wanted a hot bath which he ignored. He simply walked away when I carried the bubble bath in my mouth and dropped it at his feet.

Then, I tried her straight forward, non-confrontational method. I announced my presence, stared in into my husband’s eyes, smiled, introduced a topic and waited for him to respond. He became slightly unnerved, then curious. So we had a conversation. Once again, I learned a lesson from Dagney.

Image from author’s photo album. Poster created with Can

Ask for help

Asking nicely is one of the lessons my parents taught me at a young age, and I reinforce with my children and grandchildren. The phrase, “Say please” is a constant refrain in our home with small children around. Nothing frustrates me more than a grunt to get my attention and a groan to express displeasure. Even Dagney knows how to ask nicely.

The day she scratched on the lower cupboard asking for a treat, I did not know what she wanted so I observed her behavior. At first, she sat and stared. I think she was trying to channel a message telepathically. When that was unsuccessful, she let out a small whine and looked at the top cupboard, then scratched one more time, laid down, and released one more whine. I would have had to be unconscious not to understand what she wanted. I was unaware she even knew we had moved her treats.

Though Dagney does not speak the same language, she communicates. More than once she has laid near her bone that rested just out of reach and whined to notify me there was a problem. She was asking, “Mom, will you hand me the bone?” The word whine has negative connotations because children whining is annoying. But in Dag’s language, she is asking for help.

If an intruder enters her territory, usually when she is looking out the window, she makes a low, shallow growl. We translate this to mean, “Mom, did you know there’s a stranger outside?” It’s amazing she senses a presence often before it is visible. We have been delighted to follow her gaze to watch deer eating off the feed block, a fox passing through the pasture, and once a moose grazing in the yard.

Sometimes we all need assistance, but it can be difficult to ask. However, in my experience a caring friend is available to help if asked. It is important to open ourselves up to others and let them support us. I find myself confession my concerns to Dagney. No, it is not a sign of weakness or insanity to talk to a dog. If sharing my problems with Dagney can lighten my burden, I can only imagine the comfort available if I opened up to a human.

In the past, I have I attempted to get a human's attention by laying on the carpet and whining with intermittent growls without positive responses. Even though it is scary and makes me vulnerable, I have found using our common language is the first step to communication. Speak up.

Listen

Everybody, all mammals communicate. We all wish to be heard. As pet parents, it is our responsibility to observe, listen, and respond. Having a pet in the home requires us to offer them support and be sensitive to their requirements. If we are there for them, they will be there for us on those days that nobody seems to understand, care, or we just want to be alone except for the company of our best friend.

Good listeners lean forward, stop talking and strive to interpret the message. I have discovered since Dagney is a dog of few words, usually spending time with her is rewarded with play, love, and cuddles. She conveys to me messages of love daily. She is incredible because I truly feel she understand me. Sure, she knows a few words like treat, walk, come, stop, and sit. But she understands how I feel.

When I am sad, she cuddles beside me to warm my heart. When I am excited, she jumps and plays to engage my enthusiasm. Once when I was ill, she got out of bed and scratched on Randy’s side of the bed. I always take her out; she had never asked him for help at night before and has never since, but she understood. In return for her compassion, I listen to what she doesn’t say to provide support. That’s sincere friendship.

I learned from this experience if I play sick, Dagney will make my husband take her out at night. There is a bright side to everything.

Dagney has her blog page, Doing it Doggy Style.

*FREE* Read stories about Dagney, her brother Cisco, and numerous friends.

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About the author

Brenda Mahler

Stories about life that inspire emotions - mostly humor.

Lessons about writing based on my textbook, Strategies for Teaching Writing.

Poetry and essays about the of art of being human.

I write therefore, I am.

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