Gary Lawless was gathering with mates around the "Table of Knowledge" when the topic of talking to dogs arose.
The legendary table exists at Gary's Seahampton property. It's a place for "discourse on world events and other less serious subjects that come up".
Over to you, Gary.
At a recent session around the table, we discussed a subject that affects some of us directly. It was raised by one of our number, who was chastising his dog at the time - one of the three or four canines that usually accompany us at our table.
He asked, with furrowed brow, why we talk to our dogs as if they understand every word we utter at them, when they are clearly "ignorant mongrels" (his words, not mine).
He was not talking about the standard obedience commands like "heel, sit or stay", but the expression of a question, approval or censure, which we often direct at our four-legged companions.
This opened my eyes to the fact that we do seem to take for granted that our hairy four-legged friends can indeed understand all we say. I wondered if this practice was widespread among pet owners.
Seeking an answer, I checked out a few video clips on social media, just to see if my assumptions were correct.
Indeed, a quick review of a few channels on YouTube backed up my opinion that the people shown in these video clips treat their dogs like children and admonish or praise them in the same way - all baby talk, cooing and giggling.
Then I happened to switch to a channel about police, military and service dogs, which showed magnificent canines catching criminals, running obstacle courses and acting as drug detection dogs. This is more like it, I thought. This is what dogs are meant to do.
While I sat there in my recliner watching these dogs with open-mouthed admiration, my own dog Bella sat on the couch next to me. She likes to sit and watch television with me of an evening, and she particularly likes the commercials that include a dog chowing down on a plate of the latest trend in pet food.
She is not so sure about cats on the television. She sometimes utters a low growl at the site of them. She also likes the nature programs. She watches intently, for instance, when the lion chases a gazelle or zebra.
I'm not sure who she is cheering on, but judging by the way she sends off any critter unlucky enough to venture into her yard, I am sure it must be the lion.
While we sat there watching a military service dog tear around an obstacle course, I found myself scratching Bella behind the ear and asking her in a conversational manner why she could not do the same things that dog was doing.
She just looked at me with her head to the side, tongue hanging out and disdain in her eyes.
"Sure, you are a good girl," I was saying, "but can't you be a bit more energetic at least?"
We then discussed her good points and faults a little bit longer, until I heard my wife call out from the kitchen.
"Who are you talking to down there?" she asked.
"Just the dog," I said.
"Well just don't make a big deal of it if she disagrees with you," she replied.
I realised I had been discussing the merits of those brave and clever dogs with Bella.
I knew then that I had an answer to the original question. I was, to some extent, just the same as those insipid pet owners that I had watched earlier.
No harm done, I mused. Bella likes the conversation and companionship, so I will probably continue our talks in front of the television. However, I will need to keep my voice down so I don't alert the rest of the family to my one-sided discussions, lest they seek some sort of help for me.
It will only become weird, I thought, if one day Bella answers me.
Chess With a Drop of Red
This from Adrian Everitt, who has been watching The Queen's Gambit on Netflix.
"About six minutes or so into episode four, when the heroine Beth Harmon is having a drinking binge, one of her choices if I'm not mistaken is a bottle of Tyrrell's red," he said.
"It just appears for a second or two, but my inexperienced eye went straight to the label. Maybe a Hunter red aided her skills, though it's never helped mine."
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