Joe and I have shared the last 4 + years with our labradoodle, Bryn. She’s brought us much joy, and even more wonderment, truth be told.
Bryn understands a lot of English- I mean sentences- whole thoughts- that Joe and I express in her presence. I notice her ears moving smartly toward us, even as she gazes contemplatively out the window, her back to us. When we plan our day, including the fun stuff- biking, hiking, relaxing after lunch in the Commons forest alongside that wonderful brook, she’s all ears. After we tentatively settle on where to go with her, she’ll turn her head to look us straight in the eye.
Her tail will move approvingly, just the once.
How though, can we really be sure we aren’t deluding ourselves?
After our daily meal she’ll allow a decent space of time to pass, then softly bump Joe. He’ll look at her; she’ll glance out the window, then back at him.
‘Ready, Boss? Let's go...’
She’ll walk with deliberation toward the front hall where we keep her leash and collar, and sit.
Yes, she knows.
This behavior doesn’t happen when it rains. She’ll do her business, sigh and drag herself back inside to wait it out.
After her early morning walk I’ll prepare her first meal. She’ll wait outside the pantry until I announce; “Your dinner is ready, and there’s a cookie in it...” meaning dried tripe, the lining of a cow’s stomach, packed with vitamins and minerals. (Thanks to its inclusion in her diet she’s given up the habit of occasionally eating other dogs’ poo. The tripe people had mentioned this benefit, and they’d been right.) She takes her tripe ‘cookie’ to the dining room and eats it quietly and with pleasure, before tackling her meal. (By the way, meals are always ‘dinner,’ even if it’s morning.) After finishing most- or all- of it, she’ll come into the kitchen, and bump me once.
“Ah, you’ve eaten? Let me look.”
I get up and do exactly that. Her gleaming bowl is almost always polished. (I don’t mind the odd little bit left in there to save until later. She’ll still get her treat.)
“Well done, Bryn.” I’ll pull out a bully stick; she’ll sniff it carefully before escorting it into the dining room to eat.
BUT. Sometimes she’ll test me. She’ll eat a few tiny bites of her meal, bump my knee gently, then sit expectantly, hoping for her bully stick. Bryn believes in dessert first.
I say the same words as before.
“Ah, you’ve eaten? Let me look.”
I go look.
No go. 90% is still in there.
“Hmm. I guess you’re saving your dinner ‘til later, Bryn. No problem. But the usual rule applies: First, your dinner. Then your treat.
I move back to the table to work.
She’ll follow and summon a pathetic expression, knowing full well I won’t change my mind.
I casually repeat The Rule.
She’ll stand by me doing her ‘statue,’ in case I weaken. Not a whisker will twitch. She’ll remain motionless for perhaps five minutes...
I continue to tap at my computer.
The Boss had spoken. And that’s that.
Ghost-like, she’ll finally give up and move back to her bowl to devour every kibble. Soon I’ll feel a second soft nudge.
“Oh. You’ve eaten your dinner? Let me look.”
I knew her bowl was empty; I heard it happen, but the ritual is important, so I’ll smile and say, “Good girl. I’ll get your treat.”
I’ll produce a nice long stick from her drawer. She’ll sniff it, accept the gift and trot off to devour it. As she’ll begin moving away I’ll sometimes offer her a choice.
“Do you want to eat it outside, or stay in here?”
She’ll pause mid-step, glance outside, then toward the dining room, and make her choice. It could be either place.
Her eyes, facial expressions and where she positions her beautiful tail, convey a mountain of information. It’s simply amazing
1. how much Bryn knows, and expresses, and
2. that I’ve managed to learn so many of her eloquent, subtle signals.
We’re effectively communicating, any way you look at it.
I think Bryn has a sense of humor, too.
I rise very early- could be anywhere from 2:30 to 4:30 a.m. A sensible doggie, she’ll remain in her bed upstairs for another three hours or so before coming downstairs to begin her day.
But that 55-pound canine can move as silently as a ghost.
Sometimes she’ll come downstairs hours earlier than usual. Making no sound whatever on the creaky kitchen plank floor she’ll glide into the big kitchen, select a spot on my blind left side- and switch to ‘statue’ mode for as long as it takes. It might be an hour, if I’m deeply engrossed in what I’m doing... She is stone.
It’s worth it, though, when I gasp, jerk in shock and eek out shaky laughter at finding her there, a mere inch away! (The first time she did this I nearly fell out of my chair!) Yawning hugely, she’ll pretend surprise at my surprise.
It’s a hoot for both of us!