communicating despite barriers in language (and species!)

 

My parents have two dogs, Hunter and Trinity. They’ve both been on a diet since I returned to Redding in January.

Trinity started developing some pain in her feet recently that affected her overall quality of life to the point where, I think, that pain started to make her dislike her food via association.

Part of what gave me that impression was that she still seemed hungry, and still really liked her treats.

Switching the food helped immediately, but we also got some meds for her at the vet.

She stopped wanting to go on walks, because it hurt her feet.
I stopped even letting her outside the house for a while when I took Hunter walking with me, because it seemed to me like she’d feel worse when she stayed behind- she’d stand at the edge of the porch, tail drooping, ears flat, head lowered.

It seemed like she wanted “to be good”, wanted to do what she thought I wanted her to do, but it hurt her to. Sometimes she’d try to walk a little way with us, but was clearly in pain and I’d usually turn around to take her back home. She needed time for her feet to heal, it was a skin thing and there’s jagged rock covering our driveway and the street at the end of it.

Lately, though, she’s had much more energy.

She still wouldn’t come on walks, but I have been letting her come out and just chill on the porch until Hunter and I get back, at which point they both get treats.

Yesterday, she stopped halfway down the driveway. Didn’t seem to walk farther… but then Barley, one of our neighbor’s dogs, came running out to meet Hunter and I-

And Trinity got so excited to see her friend that she forgot all about not wanting to go on a walk!

I couldn’t keep up with them!!
We didn’t go too far, because I didn’t want her to injure herself in her excitement.

When it’s just me and Hunter and/or Trinity, and no other humans.. .

I always ask them if they want to go back yet.

I do this by stopping at a point when they’ve turned around to check if I’m still there.

I’ll ask if they want to go home, and turn to the side while taking a step back. If they don’t start heading back towards me immediately, I take a step forward. They usually turn around and bound forward a few steps then, energy renewed and tails up!

I think feeling good when we feel listened to may be more universal than just a universal human thing, but it’s hard to say for sure.

Anyway. Yesterday when we got back to the house, my mom was astonished at how energetic and happy both pups were when they ran back into the house!

Today, however, Trinity again forgot that walking is fun again now, and she again stood in front of the house, looking all sad.

I tried, on a whim- crouching down, without calling her name or saying anything.

But she immediately bounded right up to me, smiled her endearing little snarl-smile, licked my face – and kept running right past me.

Sometimes when things hurt, that pain saturates other things. That fear of further pain causes us living creatures to avoid certain things, sometimes forever.

Or until something nudges our TBF (Tricksy Brain Factor, I made that up in one of these channels… maybe #activity-and-rest?) in just the right way for our brains to see the fun

in something we once associated with something negative.


[Original posting date: May 20, 2020]

This way of interacting with other living beings; operating on the premise that at heart we all want love, regardless of species, and that we’re all communicating something, if the time is taken to really listen to what that is- keeps outpacing even my own expectations of benefits in startling ways.

Trinity dug up one of her puppy toys yesterday and was playing with it!

My mom said she hadn’t seen her do that in years. And Trinity got it out herself, from behind a couch somewhere- because she was so happy, so energetic, that she just really wanted to play!

And because I’ve been open with my mom about what I’ve been doing and why and why I think certain things might be worth trying with them, over a long enough period of time-

She tied it to my experiments in the canine behavioral psychology category, instead of just saying “oh, that’s weird” and more or less chalking it to the alien nature of dogs.

And Hunter has started cocking his head to the side when I speak to him. He didn’t do that before; my parents always complained about he never listened. But maybe he stopped listening because he wasn’t feeling heard?

I dunno!

 


[Original posting date: June 13, 2020]

Here is a video of me communicating with our dogs, followed by some words and then a couple more short videos!

 

 

So the people in our House

Who are of the canine variety

Hunter, and Trinity

They have pretty different [PF- People Factor] that I try to keep in mind

Hunter communicates a little more vocally, though he seems to not know what to do when he gets excited

He expresses things that I think of as akin to Disdain

Or Dissatisfaction

very well, though

Grumbles and huffs and growls

Trinity has started not finishing her food again, the past few days

Yesterday, my dad had the idea of putting bacon grease in it, and that worked really well!

Today, though, I was up before my parents, and would have had to heat some old grease if I wanted to try that

So I thought I’d try something easier, first

And add some grease, if it did not work

I read about a trick to use, in an article about cats that are not eating

And it’s worked pretty well when I’ve tried it with Pico

I think it might have a little to do with the ‘Smells of Anxiety’

And the way things like being sick, having a cold – alter our sensory perceptions

Food, for whatever reason- starts smelling less attractive

Less like food

But heat excites molecules

Causing more of them to float away, into our noses

So one trick when people don’t seem to be interested in eating

Is to add warm water

And Trinity, this morning- she ate all of her food, without even pausing

So, then, after we ate:

 

 

These are examples of how I communicate

with these people who don’t have the capacity for human vocalizations

 

I ask them questions

and though they don’t know what the words I’m speaking mean

they do know a question when they hear one!

 

And, just for the heck of it – here is Sisi, this morning – and another example of 

The Power of Tone:

There are a number of reasons I’ve been sharing so much of my daily interactions with the cats and dogs that live in our house

The obvious one is to give any other pet parents that may be reading this stuff a few more tools to better communicate with the people in their lives that are Not Human

Another, less obvious, one is to give people who are not Pet Parents tools to better understand the people who are Not Human that they might meet going out into the world

I met a canine person for the first time, last night at the dinner that I went to
Her name is Zoey, and she’s a big adorable ball of love!
Her mom told me a little about the history that went into her particular PF [People Factor]

But I didn’t really need to know that, to read what she was communicating. (I think!)

She seemed, to me – to want to play

But she was a little nervous, maybe around New People in general, or because there was such a big group there

She was adorable; all I had to do in order to play with her

To find [games] that she liked to play, was comfortable with playing

Was to sit on the ground, to be more her height, and a little less intimidating

And mimic her movements, some

Make excited sounds, using her name

Sometimes hold out one arm

And she’d tear around the yard

I suspect that if I had moved more than that, it might have felt more like being chased, to her, and less like playing

But by the end of the night, I think we were pretty good friends

There is another, concurrent, Reason behind my decision to more or less publish stuff like this

And that is that these things, I feel like

Are of inestimable value to me, in growing and developing my ability to communicate with human people, as well

The tells are different

The body language is different

Across species, and, to some degree, across individuals within species

But the fact of there being subtle cues

In body language

In vocalizations

and in nonverbal communication

Well, those are things- those are examples of information
Which are there to be read
If we choose to look for them
In any and every interaction
With humans, parrots, cats, and dogs
I would predict that they are there to be read in many other species, as well
I just haven’t really met too many members of other species since I began trying to be conscious about my efforts in communication

No, wait! Our neighbors have a horse, and I’ve had a couple brief dialogues with her

But, at any rate – this list is incomplete. And will continue to grow, the more I interact with people of all kinds

And will continue to grow, for you-

The more you do so, as well

 

brooke

I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

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