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We walk the greenway through our neighborhood twice a day, a total of a little more than five miles on a shaded path that meanders beside a creek. The exercise is good for us and burns energy from the dogs, critical when you share your home with a herd of Siberian Huskies.
Our neighborhood is fairly large—about 600 residences centered around a small commercial district with shopping and restaurants. Three schools connect—an elementary, a middle school, and a high school—so numerous kids use the trail including the track and cross country teams. Our paths are popular, yet quiet and peaceful.
As we walk the dogs, we regularly stop and chat with others who share our route. The dogs know many of them now and eagerly accept ear rubs and greetings. We love seeing the smiles the dogs bring to others (and are, of course, respectful of those who wish not to associate with canines).
On a number of recent trips on the trail, one particular older gentleman grins from ear to ear as soon as he sees us coming. He chatters with the dogs, speaking rapidly and enthusiastically. The dogs eat it up, eager to say hello in return. Unfortunately, for we mere humans, we understand only the gist of the conversation because the man doesn’t speak English. The dogs, of course, don’t care, but it makes communication challenging, especially since I was unable to detect which language it was.
In our first several encounters, we did our best to communicate with smiles and hand gestures and body language. We failed at anything beyond a simple sharing of happiness. He was always alone, so no one could translate for us or even let us know where he lived.
The dogs, however, continued to succeed. They loved his excited patter, the variations in his speech, the obvious happiness he exuded.
In one of our encounters, I decided to share the dogs’ names. I pointed at one and spoke the name. The man responded with a cock of his head and a raise of an eyebrow. I repeated the name. He cupped his hand around his ear and then pointed at his ear and shook his head. He was hard-of-hearing. My attempt at the most rudimentary spoken communication failed again.
The dogs didn’t worry about such trivial matters.
We came to accept the limitation. We greeted him enthusiastically. He greeted us with obvious pleasure and gabbed with the dogs with excitement.
We still don’t know his name. Where he lives. What he is saying. It doesn’t matter. We, like the dogs, know joy in any language.
Books I’m Reading
Two best friends, Wynn and Jack, decide to canoe the Maskwa River in northern Canada. Sharing a love of mountains, books, and fishing, they expect nothing but days of paddling at a leisurely pace and evenings of campfires and reading.
When a wildfire threatens, they move quickly down the fog-shrouded river. They hear, but can not see, a man and woman arguing on the banks, but opt to paddle past. Later in the day, they decide to return upriver and ensure the couple is aware of the approaching fire. Once back, though, they can’t find them.
The next day, they encounter a man paddling alone. Is he the man? If so, where is the woman?
Their quiet vacation becomes a desperate wilderness survival in much the same way as a quiet, meandering river ultimately encounters white water.
The Far Side—One of my favorite comic strips was The Far Side which ran from 1980 until Gary Larson’s retirement in 1995. As he readily admits, he never considered the impact the internet might have and copies of his work appeared on many websites, all without his permission. He published a letter asking people to respect his copyrights and legitimate sites took his work down, but those who don’t care about such things shared copies anyway. Social media made the situation worse. He relented and, in 2019, an official website of the historical comics began sharing several old cartoons a day. In 2020, Larson began adding the occasional new piece of work—not the same as the original but creative and interesting. If you’re a fan of this creative genius, here is the only official internet home you can see his work.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
Monday. The start of the workweek. Unless, of course, you are a Siberian Husky enjoying the summer sun, a grassy lawn, and cool mountain breezes. Typhoon demonstrates the proper way to flaunt the joys of a Canine Monday.
Background title image courtesy JR Korpa
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Hu-Dad-I loved reading the Herd’s communication with the man who speaks no English or cannot hear well. The dogs feel joy from the man and respond in kind! It seems all who go on the walks enjoy them.
I just love seeing Typhoon now being able to roll in the grass with NO leash attached!!!
Animals are great unifiers. Sometimes the best communication is non-verbal and you make an older man happy. Lovely story.
It is funny how dogs can communicate in no specific language. I spent the morning at a sled dog race holding dogs at the starting line with a Canadian who spoke no English. We had a great time and “talked” thru the dogs. Thanks for the book idea. I am also a Far Side lover.
I’ve been obsessed with the Far Side ever since the comic came out. Did not know about the website, just knew he was retired. Thanks for sharing!
Dog language is like a smile, everyone can speak it.