…..'A sense of humour lends you poise, it gives you balance and it helps you to bend without breaking'…..

(HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda)

Monday is menosukhi day - the one in which I go all sentimental. For a few weeks this means you are sharing my memories of two darling creatures, Jade Dog MacWoof and Jasper Cat MacMeow.

Pawcraft.  Jade was handy with her paws.  Jasper's paws, as handsome as they were, still came in as standard cat's equipment.  Good for grooming, scratching, licking, flicking and pinning down dogs tails.

But Jade had sign language and she made sure that I became reasonably proficient at it.  Not purely paws, it has to be admitted.  They would initiate contact, sometimes carry out the whole message, but often there would be concomitant signals with ears, eyes and tongue.  Any one or all three, depending on the emergency.

If I had a dollar for every comment I ever had regarding the 'tricks' Jade was good at, I could have fed the five thousand.  Thing is, I never, ever, actually taught her any 'tricks'.  All the part I played in things was to guide her when she was in danger of being socially offensive or troublesome.  So she did learn the basics of sit, stay, lie down, wait, speak when spoken to...  You know the stuff.  We all have to learn it at some point.  Most of us do so at our mother's knee.

Right from puppy-hood, Jade used her front paws more like a kangaroo than a dog.  She would actually pick up the yoghurt carton in them to angle it just 'so' - that way the tongue would reach the bottom and the edges with ease.  This occasionally involved dropping over onto one's back with the hindlegs stretched to knees-up position, like someone going into ab-crunches!  Then again, if there was a special treat like peanut butter toast, it was carried to the favourite eating spot, put down the proper way up, then circled a few times before lying down and - get this - scraping the peanut butter up with her claws and licking them with great relish and tongue-slapping.  Only when she was sure she couldn't get any more separate from the base, did the bread itself get chomped down!

Then came the day I clicked that this amazing girl would start the conversations and not just wait for me to notice her.  I was sitting studying when in she came at a pace slightly more than her leisurely style.    She didn't go lie behind as normal, but sat perfectly poised beside me.  I winked and got on with things.  Next thing, the paw had come up onto my knee.  Now this is not an unusual act for a dog wanting attention. Majority of you dog-mates out there will know this one.

What made Jade's different (and me sit up) though, was that, when not getting what she wanted, rather than try to climb over me - or give up and go away - she put the paw back on my knee… and PRESSED.  She was still sitting perfectly.  Removing her paw, she repeated the action. Rest the paw first, then PRESS.

Okay.  I turned to look at her fully and when she saw she had engaged me, she stood and walked towards the door.  When I didn't follow, she came back and did the knee press thing without sitting this time, then turned and headed out again, checking to see I was behind.  I can be slow - but I can also be pretty quick on the uptake. I got that there was something she needed me to do.

Outside she was sitting pretty beside her water bowl - an old 2ltr icecream container with deep sides.  Thinking she was asking for it to be filled I leaned over and got a surprise.  The bowl was full.  At the bottom however, was one of the deadly Sydney Funnelweb spiders!  These creatures in the heat of late summer, will often be found in swimming pools or kiddies paddle ponds and, indeed, if short on those, a doggie's drinking vessel.  I cannot vouch, though, for how many pooches would recognise that the item in the bottom was not a stray food morsel and try to eat it. I am just grateful that Jade had more nouse than that.  I laughed out loud and looked straight into those liquid browns.  The soul that looked out at me (all 10 months of it) was smiling in a manner that said - well finally you caught on mum!  Funnelweb's have a right to life as do we all. I watered the compost heap with it.

Then there was the "please may I have a treat?" signal.  This, I learned, was the paw half raised and the tongue licked from left to right.  If necessary there was a bit of lip smacking as well.  It didn't stop there.  Usually I had two and sometimes three choices of flavour or style.  Did she want chookie biccies or vegemite hide chews?  Was it to be the liver strips or the coconut oatmeal yummies?  To begin with, as you may imagine, I would give what I thought she should have.  It would sometimes be refused so I'd have to go through them one by one. 
May I...?

Then, when in a hurry one day, I just grabbed the three different boxes between my hands and held them down to her.  She tapped the middle one and accepted the contents. Intrigued, the next time I did this, she again picked, only this time it was the right.

On it went.  She'd sniff at them, then decide.  Sceptics seeing this would say that she would choose always the same one.  But she did not.  And I would not always offer all the choices.  This would occasionally result in her sitting down looking at me ruefully until I came up with another alternative, because, that day, neither of those would do!!

Or the "do you feel like a walk?" question.  This would come up when an extra outing seemed like a good idea - and generally came after I had been sitting studying for rather longer than was healthy.  She would do the knee press then, when I looked at her, the ears would come forward like radar saucers.  If I was in less than best fettle, she'd lie and press my foot instead, then lay her ears back at a comical angle - invariable raising a smile from me.

Extra to all this was the actual talking.  Just every now and then, Jade would go into verbal mode.  Not barking (and naturally one became aware of the different tones there), but mumbling, gruffling, snorting talk.  "wrrfooh. Soojd  ddjfooe.  Lsooddn;p jajas[[plttppjk"  I was hugely gratified that my clever girl thought I was intelligent enough to translate.  It usually took three or four goes before I got close to what she was saying though.  I recall once when a new friend had paid a visit, right there in front of Tee, Jade turned and spoke.  She looked from me to Tee and back.  I had a go at several possibilities like "are you offering Tee something to drink?  No, well are you asking Tee to play?   No, okay are you asking Tee to pat you?"  None of these.  For some reason I then translated "Are you telling me you like Tee?"  at this, Jade put her paw up high.  YES.

Now normally, Jade would have done what most dogs would do - run circles round the new friend and  generally make a fuss.  But if I tell you that Tee was an intellectually disabled lady I had met at college and who was unsure around animals, you may be a tad more impressed.  As was I.

Jade never failed to keep surprising me with her methods of getting a message across.  Sometimes on behalf of Jasper too.  More on that next week!

Don't forget to visit BOZO and take a read of this week's edition of the CanineChronicles.


  1. I can do the treat request thing too, sometimes you just do not fancy a boring old bonio and only a markie bone will do. I can talk too but mine come in the form of squeaks, but they have the desired effect. xxooxx

  2. Oh, how wonderful, Yam. Jade sounds like a super companion, getting you to walk when you've been studying too long.
    Our Lindy talks, too, but she is less discriminating in her choice of treats. The only one she'll turn down is broccoli tops, but she likes the stems cut into coins, and she adores cucumber.
    She's fun to watch at 10 in the evening. That's when she and her daddy share an apple, and she tells him about it in no uncertain terms. She doesn't bark, but she talks to him, and dances for him.
    Animals are wonderful, and I'm enjoying reading about Jade.
    Luv, K

  3. Hari Om
    Oh Lady V and Lindy - I knew I made friends with the right sorts of doglets!! I truly believe that given the space and love, you can prove to humans who is really running the shopping list... XXXXOOOO


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