I have a talking dog.
We didn’t know it when we got him, of course. He didn’t reveal this talent to us right away. He would vocalize occasionally in dog speak, but no one really had any idea what he was saying because he spoke in his language and we spoke in ours and there was no Rosetta Stone program for either of us. But then one morning I came down the stairs, as I always do, and I said, “Hello, Monty!”
Monty greeted me with some howling, as he always does, but this time, he said something very clear and easy to understand.
“Hello,” said the dog.
I stopped mid-step.
“Hello,” said the dog.
“Joel, come here!” I yelled back toward the bedroom. “The dog is talking.”
I heard the door open behind me and my husband joined me on the steps.
“What are you talking about?” he said, sleepily.
“Watch this,” I said. I looked down at the dog wagging his tail at the bottom of the staircase.
“Hello Monty,” I greeted him.
“Hello,” said the dog. To be honest, it was actually more like, “Hurro,” but it sounded close enough and the circumstances were certainly right for a wholehearted hello.
This would be a good time to acknowledge that Monty is a golden retriever and golden retrievers are not generally known for their vocal techniques. Huskies and malamutes tend to be the big talkers and will often congregate around water coolers to discuss the latest episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” But golden retrievers generally prefer to keep their opinions to themselves and refrain from any gossip or innuendo. Their motto is “Speak softly and carry a big stick ... or frisbee or tennis ball.”
We went downstairs and the dog greeted us in a more traditional dog way by bringing us a toy, wagging his tail, and generally just acting as though he were happy to see us, unlike our actual children who typically greeted us in the morning with a grunt and a sneer.
“Does he say anything else?” my husband wondered.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I haven’t asked him.”
We let the dog out, even though he hadn’t said, “I need to go out,” and then when he came back in, I turned to him and said, “Do you want your breakfast?”
He sat and looked at me quite seriously. Then he spoke.
“Hello,” replied the dog.
“Looks like he’s a one trick pony,” said my husband.
“Don’t pressure him,” I said. “He’ll lose confidence.”
I looked at the dog and was simultaneously impressed and not. I’d seen videos of other dogs on YouTube who could say, “I love you,” and “I want my mama,” and “Give me that damn cookie.”
Then there were the dogs who could call 911, rescue mountain climbers, and sniff out bombs and drugs. I’m sure my dog could do all that, if he were trained, but at that moment while he was saying “hello,” all I really hoped for was a follow-up “goodbye.”
I decided to give up on the talking dog lessons and walked across the floor to get the dog his food. But as I stepped forward I failed to notice that it was raining outside and the dog had left a big puddle in the middle of the kitchen floor. I hit the puddle with my foot, lost my balance, skidded across the floor, and fell flat on my butt. The dog watched this and then let out a series of guffaws that could only be interpreted as laughter.
“Well, he may only be able to say hello,” said my husband. “But at least he’s got a sense of humor.”
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