As you can probably tell from my books, I just LOVE old dogs…but I’m not the only one who feels that way. The following story came from Linda Parker, a special animal lover who lives in Florida:
“I, too, love old dogs. When I was a little girl, I adored the old dog who lived next to my grandmother’s little farm house in Ashtabula, Ohio. That old Newfoundland dog was a black, tumbled mass of fur, burrs, and snarls but my three sisters and I thought he was beautiful. He would slowly amble over to my grandmother’s backyard and we would spend hours fussing with his hair. Four little girls finger-combing thru that dog’s wooly coat!
He only knew one command: if anyone said, “Go home Toby“, he would SLOWLY get to his feet and SLOWLY walk home. No amount of pleading, (“I was only kidding Toby… pleeeease stay”), would get him to turn around and come back to us. No amount of holding his giant head would get him to stay! If the words were said, he would amble home.
Instantly we would then turn our wrath on the foolish sister who had ruined our fun. I realize, as a grownup, that to a child it was such a temptation to say the magic words, Go Home Toby. It amazed a child to see the massive dog follow the command — but we had each pledged we would NOT utter the words! Oh my – pity the soul who broke the pledge!
Today, as four grown up sisters, we all treasure our memories of Toby — and we still burst out in giggles when one of us whispers the magic words, Go Home Toby.”
Pretty sweet, huh?
That reminds me of my faithful pitbull/dingo mix, Prudence, who made me laugh for almost sixteen years. When she was around 4, I accidently discovered a command that she immediately responded to – “Go away.”
I was sitting on the floor reading a newspaper or magazine, and she came up for her usual dose of affection, and stood on my paper. I kiddingly, and in a playful voice, said, “Go away, Rudy. Go away.” To my somewhat bemused amazement, her ears dropped, she looked directly at me for a second, as if seeking confirmation of my meaning, and then turned and walked a few feet away, turned around and laid down. I had never taught her that command. I experimented over the next few days with this command to see if she was responding to the words, or my tone of voice. I varied the tone, even making it playful, or low and impassive. I even whispered it, gently and sweetly to her. It all yielded the same result – she would look wounded, but obediently did something hard for her. She left my immediate presence. She did it for me, and it broke my heart to see her submit so faithfully like that while feeling somehow I didn’t want her at that moment.
Over the years, I was vigilant to never forget to undo the command, because until I told her it was okay to come to me, she would stay in one place and stare at me with the deepest longing for some sort of forgiveness until I bid her to come to me. It was always good for a demonstration of how dogs so often understand words we say, not just the way we say them. Needless to say, she taught me so much about how sensitive, emotional and complex our canine companions are.
all the best,