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Doggone It! How Our Pets Communicate

November 27, 2022

Another Way for week of November 18, 2022

Doggone It!

Our dog is a mutt, really. If you’re not into dogs or pets, visit the next page or columnist.

Velvet is a mixed breed, but shows all the signs of an Australian Shepherd. But she’s only about 45 pounds and does not have the wavy hair typical of some Australian Shepherds.

Velvet when she was about 22 pounds.

But, when it comes to herding, she’s all there. We have learned much about her shepherding instincts as we’ve lived with her for the last eight years. Especially now—since a cat has reentered our lives this past January.

Velvet (dog) and Pumpkin (cat) get along quite well, but being a cat, Pumpkin doesn’t enjoy being bossed or nuzzled around too much. But they’ll lie down next to each other on the floor when the sun is streaming in our windows, especially during fall and winter.

Pumpkin enjoys going out in our garage (off our kitchen) to catch crickets (or once, a mouse). But she does not meow very loudly. When she wants back in the house, she meows softly. If we have the TV on, we don’t hear her. But the dog has keen enough ears to hear that meow. And Velvet begins barking saying: “Get her in, get her in, she wants in.”

“Okay, okay, Velvet, we’ll get her in, just hold your horses.”

And Pumpkin dashes in as soon as we open the door and the dog touches her nose to Pumpkin, which I assume is her way of marking kitty or territory.

From what I understand, this behavior is not unusual. If my husband and I hug each other, she starts barking. Is that jealousy? When our daughter calls on Sunday evenings and we talk for a half hour or more, Velvet stays quiet, but when we start saying our goodbyes to the grandsons and to our daughter, Velvet chimes in with her barks. Which the grandsons love! These boys have taken care of her frequently, (with their Mom and Dad’s help), when we have traveled through their state and needed dog sitters. She is a people dog.

In the evening if she really needs to go potty, she comes and nudges me on my hand, quite insistently. My husband doesn’t usually take her out, so it is always me she prods.

Velvet and the cat.

The historians and archaeologists tell us that dogs have been domesticated by humans for at least 23,000 years, maybe more or less depending on your source. I grew up on a farm and on most farms, dogs were only outside pets, who perhaps were allowed on a porch or dog house depending on weather or the owners. When my husband and I got married and moved from a trailer into our first house, my husband definitely wanted a house dog, partially as a watch dog but primarily as a pet. So I got used to that early on. Husband is also a huge cat person so we’ve had many different cats through the years, especially when our children were young.

I guess the biggest reason I’m writing about an old subject is that I have only (in the last year or two) become more aware of how dogs communicate with us. If she detects that we’re packing for a trip, she becomes quite anxious. Longer ago we had neighbors who could take care of her and we would leave her home. Now these neighbors are quite elderly and can’t take care of our pets. So, as mentioned above, our grandsons have dog-sat. We try to hide our packing until the last minute and she climbs three feet off the ground to load herself into our minivan.

One of her smiles. Overall, she usually wears a very serious face.

And the “Doggone It” in my column title? Just as I was concluding my writing this piece on our smart and shepherding dog, she goes and gets herself sprayed by a skunk.

That’s just a little of life with an indoor/outdoor dog.

What have you learned about how pets or animals communicate? Any stories?

Share here or send to anotherwaymedia or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books, most recently Memoir of an Unimagined Career:43 Years Inside Mennonite Media. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Silver, Beverly P - silverbp permalink

    Thanks,Melodie, Beverly

  2. Cats are out because I’m allergic to cat dander. In fact, I lost interest in owning a pet after our last dog died, but I do enjoy the dogs on a leash that prance by my window in my writing studio.

    • Sorry! Seems I’ve hit the pet theme a bit too often recently but thanks for being such a loyal and thoughtful commenter! Prancing dogs (on leash) would be enjoyable from your studio window! Hope you had a good thanksgiving weekend–we have been a bit snowed (not the cold stuff) with activities, some joyful, some sad. Blessings!

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