Most of the time I don’t realize that I’m doing it, but every so often I catch myself and don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Because I cry too much as it is (every time I see or hear about an act of kindness on my Facebook feed, for example), I usually choose to go the laughter route when I catch myself. But I have to say, while I’m laughing, a part of me definitely is questioning my sanity.
I know I’m not the only one who talks to her dog. I know others give their dog a voice so they can carry on full conversations with the dog, but do these dog-conversing people do these things in public, around people they don’t know well or at all? I’ve never seen it and I spend as much time as a solitary writer can out of doors, people-watching, and when the opportunity presents itself, people-interacting.
So, today, when I took the dog for a walk, and realized that every time he stopped, which was constantly, I talked to him about what he was doing, asked him why he takes such care when he sniffs the leaf piles, more than he does the fire hydrants or the grass, and listened to his rather sophisticated answer (the deeper the leaf pile, the more dogs have peed there, the more complex the smell and he is training to become a certified sommelier of the doggy sort), I laughed. And looked around to see two other people within hearing distance, walking their dogs, neither in conversation with their dog, one of them on the telephone, the other one quiet.
Did they hear me? Oh my God, did they hear what I said? Did they hear the questions AND the answers? Does it matter? I did it either way. I honestly asked my dog those questions and had my dog answer me, in a voice that came straight from my voice box, about the work he’s doing so he can be a pee steward, perhaps at a restaurant with dog patrons.
It’s a real possibility. I just might be crazy. I might, in fact, be like Ellie.
When I was a girl, we briefly employed a woman named Ellie who cleaned our house and talked to inanimate objects. I would sneak around, staying close enough to hear her but far enough away not to be seen, and take pleasure in listening to her bizarre conversations. During a break, she put a piece of bread in the toaster and said (to the bread), “Now, it’s going to get hot in there when I turn the oven on, but don’t worry, you’ll only get a suntan. I won’t let you get burned.” She paused, and with a smirk in her voice, she continued, “and if you do get a little burned, no worries, because the truth is you’re gonna be toast. And I’m gonna smother you with butter and I’m gonna eat you.”
That was Ellie, sweet-talking a piece of bread before revealing her murderous self. She talked to everything, though, the vacuum cleaner, books, lampshades, and Spot the big black mutt I brought home as a puppy (yes, I named the dog. It was ironic. Leave me alone.) Sometimes I’d catch Ellie reminding Spot of something she’d said earlier like, “Stop following me around. I told you that I’m only vacuuming this room once no matter how much you shed. You’re going to have to explain yourself to Mrs. Walpert if the rug has dog hair on it when I’m done. Do you hear me?” Then she’d scratch him behind his ears because she was a dog-lover and he was a great dog.
I am a dog lover, too, and Tuck, like Spot, is a great dog. And sometimes, when he’s misbehaving, I boss him around and threaten him the way Ellie did with Spot. Not that his breed sheds. It doesn’t. Not that the dog takes seriously what I say. Actually, Tuck’s been known to get sassy and talk back. Too bad it means nothing to him to threaten to take his phone away if he continues to talk to me that way. Maybe his ball. But then he’d bother me endlessly until I gave it back. Like my kids with their phones.
When I saw the other dog walkers earlier today, I smiled and said hello. We let our dogs sniff each other. We asked each other the dogs’ names. We commented on how we’d never crossed paths before even though we’re in the same neighborhood and walk our dogs regularly.
Neither of them said anything about my in-depth discussion with Tuck, which they had to have witnessed. Neighbors are good that way. Friends or family would probably point out that I was beginning to lose it. Or that I lost it a long time ago.
Do you find it strange that just now I turned to Tuck and asked him if he thought I was losing it? He didn’t respond, just rubbed up against me and gave me his paw. I guess his voice is tired or maybe he’s being smart by avoiding THAT discussion. The hand that feeds you and all that. And he IS a pretty smart dog.
He’s training to be a sommelier, you know.