Lessons in Doglish

30th Aug, 2019


Illustration by Jenny Lamont

In which DD wishes The Girls at least played charades!

There are many times when I’ve wished that my girls, Sheba and Sammy, could just talk, maybe draw an image in the sand with a steady paw, or indicate with a blink or two for “getting hot” or “getting cold” so that I could better grasp what’s going on with them.

Take today, for instance. Something is clearly bothering our Sheba. I’m in tune enough with her to know this. (That and she only pulls the sympathy act when she isn’t feeling 100%.)

Florence Nightingale-like, I clasped her paw and gazed soulfully into her eyes; I’ve given her a full-body check and have curled up next to her on the floor, cuddled her and asked her where she wasn’t feeling so good. But still I’m nowhere closer to deciphering what’s ailing her. We’re down to considering potential problems that could beset her nether regions, but I can’t tell whether it’s a bum or, um, opposite of bum, issue. I’m keeping a beady eye on her!

Sometimes their bodies are good indicators for a paranoid mom like me. A gurgly tummy – I give tummy settling meds and all is well within 15 minutes; a faint limp or a weary plod up or down the stairs – I give a homeopathic tablet and all is well; broken skin, an itch, a scratch, a yeasty ear… all of it is so much easier to treat and/or to SHOW to a caring vet to better diagnose if I’m at a complete loss.

Sock-hoarding Sammy is easier to understand than Sheba, maybe because we’ve been joined at the hip for 13 years – we practically breathe as one! Sheba is a bit more of a closed book. As a more independent young lady, she wants to appear strong and in control at all times. Which is why, when she’s sad or unhappy, I notice it immediately.

Sammy, on the other hand (paw), is forceful in what she wants and will go to great lengths to show it in any way she can. She’ll deliberately and exaggeratedly remake up her doggy basket if it’s not done “her” way. She’ll systematically remove every pea, carrot, corn or piece of spinach out of her food bowl and lay it diligently aside. Often I wonder if it’s an attempt to spell out the word “YUCK” with them. But, determined to nourish her, I take the same approach as I did when Aaron was a toddler: “keep on giving it to them and one day they will eat it”. Hmmm… Aaron, aged 16, still does what Sammy does when it comes to veggies, so I’m guessing this actually doesn’t work.

The bottom line is: short of actually stomping her little Morkie foot, Sammy makes it known when Sammy isn’t happy.

That said, there was a glorious moment yesterday when Sheba had no trouble at all “explaining” to me the correct order of eating. Or, rather, I had no trouble understanding. Every morning she sits next to me as I prepare the food for The Budgies, Boris and George, ensuring all is ship-shape and done correctly.

She waits patiently as she gets her portion of veggies (yes, Sheba DOES eat veggies) and she enjoys a nibble of apple too. Yesterday, for some reason, I changed the routine and cut the apple first… I offered a piece to her, which she took readily and then promptly spat out, thoroughly disgruntled.

“What? You don’t want your apple today?” I asked, mystified. She does like her apple…

I gave her the veggies and she snaffled them up… and THEN she pointedly crunched up the apple. No translator needed. I got that: apples come AFTER veggies. Dessert after mains. Clever Sheba Shanks! And now I know not to get that wrong again.

The rest, however, is still a complete mystery to me – at least until they learn to speak English… or I learn to speak Doglish.