I imagine this is common for pet-owners, but in my household, we often vocalize what our dog might be thinking. What might not be as common, I’m guessing, is that we’ve become a family of amateur ventriloquists.
Going back to our pre-kid days, my husband’s and my first dog, Fennie, was quite a blabbermouth. She developed a fairly sophisticated brand of observational humor, strangely peppered with a lot of salty language. I don’t know why she liked to swear, but Fennie knew all the choice words.
This habit of talking for our dog carried over to our next dog, Daisy. My husband and I started it, but even when the kids were quite young, they joined in vocalizing Daisy’s thoughts. By the way, dog voices are kind of high pitched with a nasal tone, at least in our family.
A typical Daisy-conversation goes like this:
Human: “Daisy, doesn’t it bother you to have water dripping from your face like that? Why don’t you drink more daintily?”
Daisy: “Why don’t you try dunking your fur-covered head into a bowl of water and see if you can keep from dripping, you bleepers!”
Honestly, having been a dog ventriloquist for the past 20 years, I can see the appeal in being an actual ventriloquist. Mind you, none of the Perezes actually tries to keep his or her mouth from moving while talking for Daisy, but we all say things with a certain spunk that doesn’t match up with our regular conversational style. Daisy is much more of a smart aleck than the rest of us.
Anyhoo, all this talking for the dog has made me feel like I really understand a dog’s concerns and interests. But I think my dog ventriloquism would greatly benefit from being Daisy for a day. I’ve decided that I’m willing to trade one human day and spend it as Daisy to find out what is going on in her mind. I’m only going to make this trade if I’m able to remember what I learned after my dog-day. And ideally, I’d trade in a particularly unpleasant human day, say the one a few Picnic Days ago where I fell off my bike and broke my hand and my teeth.
Of particular interest to me as I catalog information for the future is how bored is Daisy all day while we’re at school and work? Does she pine away, wishing that sound of tires coming up the street is one of her people’s cars? Or is she seriously sound asleep on the couch all day, happy to have some quiet?
When we do get home, Daisy is most excited to see me. I’m not just saying this, either … I am her favorite, no matter what the others in my household say. She rushes to the door to greet me with great gusto; and I reward her with heaps of attention, petting and sweet talk. But I’m curious what she thinks when she sees me. Is she thinking, “Oh, I love her so much!”? Or is she thinking, “My belly itches. This person will scratch it if I flop on the floor in front of her.” When I spend my day as a dog, I will definitely analyze this aspect of her personality.
I would also spend some time at the dog park to get a better understanding of her intense love of the place. And I want to know more about her sense of direction. At what point does she deduce we are headed to the veterinarian, and when does she realize we’re headed to Toad Hollow Dog Park?
I’m curious, too, about why Daisy chooses the spots she does to relax. I can appreciate the joy of the kitchen floor, where food is likely to drop; and the couch and our younger son’s bed seem like lovely locations to lounge. But why after we moved our coffee table from its usual position, did she sprawl out there as if it were the most precious place on the planet, like she’s been longing for the day that she could finally get to that special patch of rug.
Her other favorite spot is a pathetically flat bean bag chair. She paws at it, piles it, primps it and finally plops into it. And we laugh at her the whole time. I’ve wondered if she feels humiliated by our laughing, or if she knows we are laughing with her.
Of course, she spews a string of profanity as we laugh at her, in her nasally, high-pitched voice: “Ha ha, very funny, bleeping bleepers! Why don’t you get me a better bleeping beanbag!”
— Tanya Perez is an associate editor at The Enterprise. Her column publishes every other week on Wednesdays or Thursdays. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @enterprisetanya