“I’m sure he understands every word” is a thought that has crossed many of our minds.
I believe we can set up discourse with animals more than we currently ‘believe’ We know about horse whisperers, now dog whisperers in the US. There is a lot of emerging evidence that animals understand more than we think they do.
A Conversation from ‘The story of Doctor Doolittle’
“That means, `Is the porridge hot yet?’–in bird-language.”
“My! You don’t say so!” said the Doctor.
“You never talked that way to me before.”
“What would have been the good?” said Polynesia [the parrot], dusting some cracker-crumbs off her left wing. “You wouldn’t have understood me if I had.”
“Tell me some more,” said the Doctor, all excited; and he rushed over to the dresser-drawer and came back with the butcher’s book and a pencil. “Now don’t go too fast–and I’ll write it down. This is interesting–very interesting –something quite new. Give me the Birds’ A.B.C. first–slowly now.”
So that was the way the Doctor came to know that animals had a language of their own and could talk to one another. And all that afternoon, while it was raining, Polynesia sat on the kitchen table giving him bird words to put down in the book.
At tea-time, when the dog, Jip, came in, the parrot said to the Doctor,
“See, HE’S talking to you.”
“Looks to me as though he were scratching his ear,” said the Doctor.
“But animals don’t always speak with their mouths,” said the parrot in a high voice, raising her eyebrows. “They talk with their ears, with their feet, with their tails–with everything.Sometimes they don’t WANT to make a noise. Do you see now the way he’s twitching up one side of his nose?”
“What’s that mean?” asked the Doctor.
“That means, `Can’t you see that it has stopped raining?'” Polynesia answered. “He is asking you a question. Dogs nearly always use their noses for asking questions..
I have always found that talking to kittens helps to bond with them at least and sometimes they turn into remarkably understanding companions. I had care for a few weeks of a litter of kittens waiting for homes.
They were a lot of joy and took up no end of time. Buffy liked to ride on my shoulders during the chores. He liked the ups and downs when I was picking things up, though he was a most considerate kit from the off and kept his pins to himself.
So I chatted away and explained what I was doing which had become a natural habit with my own babies who thought I was their horse. Buffy liked being talked to. How could I tell? Well I just could. I’m sure he knew the difference between no and yes within the first day. If he didn’t like it he’d be off.
There were rules. No stepping on the keyboard – ever. Wires were out of bounds. Getting on the table came much later – I loved playing with them on the table so re-training was inevitable.
The thing is I talked to Buffy a lot. I never thought about it much at the time because this was not his home – his new grown up mum would set her own rules. They were all litter trained from their natural mother so they knew that there were things to learn.
When I have time for a kitten companion I shall get one and also a puppy and set up an experiment about training them to communicate with me as well as each other. In the first instance I believe that the art comes from accute observation of the kitten – undivided attention and care with the tone and emphasis.
That’s what I notice about people who are good with animals.
Love helps – a lot.