Monday, July 2, 2018

Dog Languages


The wise old man showed up for the Fourth on a 21-speed Mongoose Deception mountain bicycle with slick tires. He said he borrowed it from a friend in Standard Umpstead and rode it through the backroads to my house, quite a feat for a man of his age who has been in and out of what he calls “rest homes.”

He was talkative, as ever, and shared the following with a straight face. At first, I thought he was serious and that his cheese had finally slipped plumb off his cracker. But less than half way through, I saw the twinkle and knew it was a joke. These are his words:

“Dan, I have a friend named Dr. Lee Ho who is a world-class psycho-linguist up at Brandeis. We visited by Skype recently and he told me he had discovered the key to dog languages through understanding their inevitable personalities by body type.

“The reason you don’t hear much barking in a vet’s waiting room is that dogs simply do not understand each other. Dialects specialize into distinct language groups in a distance of less than eight miles. The phrase, ‘bicycle riders approach,’ may be woof-arrgh-wowwow-woof here on highway 195. Four miles down the road, the phrase may be Agga-agga-wooboo-woof. As you can hear, this is much more than elision in the same language, but whole new phonemes have developed.”

“Sir,” I queried, “what does this have to do with body types?”

“Everything, Dan. According to Professor Ho, who is a strong bicyclist himself, when a mesomorphic dog, that is a Doberman, German Shepherd or Rottweiler come out barking as you ride by, they say, ‘Get away from my property or I will send you to the emergency room for stitches.’ This sentence is fairly consistent from community to community, but expressed very differently, as in the phrase I just illustrated. The ideal response from a bicyclist is to spin the crank as rapidly as possible yelling, ‘No, dog!’

Similarly, if viscerotonic dogs chase you, that is, any variety of pet hound not used for hunting—the Basset, the Beagle, the Blue-Heeler—they are saying, ‘Hey, rolling human, ride on away from my driveway. My master likes for me to be a watch dog and I will just trot along beside you and yodel for a moment in case she’s watching, if you don’t mind.’ The best response, according to Ho, is to yell, ‘supper time,’ and the animal will turn and lope back home.

“Finally, Dan, my friend at Brandeis says that by far the most dangerous dog for bicyclists is the little intellectual cerebrotonic. These are types such as the Poodle, the Cocker and the Chihuahua. These brain dominant animals are most often saying, ‘You better get out of here you wheeled goon or I will trick you into crashing and nip you in the bud.’ Ho says the ideal response is to learn the little canine’s name if and when the owner calls him, her or it back. Then the cyclist can call out the name. The dog will usually sit down at that moment with tilted head and wonder where y’all made acquaintance.”

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