Ask for what you want

It has been a pleasant afternoon of snoozing for Cooper. After lunchtime the sun hits the back of the house providing a perfect place to curl up and soak in the rays. A big, wide yawn, and then a quick bit of dog yoga – moving into the position for downward facing dog, followed by a cat stretch – he looks around to see if anything has changed during the time he’s been asleep. Has a cat wandered around his domain in his absence? He sniffs the air to see if maybe his food bowl has been re-filled. Ah, sadly not.

Hit with a small pang of loneliness, he goes off to search for his owner. There she is, sitting at the desk in her office, where he left her before his sleep. Cooper stares intently at her for a while, wagging his tail. Eventually this gets her attention and she swivels in her chair to face him. She says a bunch of words at him – none of which are “food” or “walk” – so he intensifies his wagging. Padding closer, he shoves his head into her lap and pushes his nose under her hand. She’s not getting it, so he pushes his head again until she finally understands and strokes his furry crown. That feels pretty good, he thinks, as he closes his eyes happily. He gives the hand a little lick as a reward to his owner for correctly identifying his intent.

Cooper side sitting

Cooper may understand some of the words said to him – the important ones – but his voice box doesn’t work in the same way as humans ones do and he has to choose a different way to communicate. He doesn’t think that being unable to articulate a thought verbally is a handicap though. It just means he has to rely on communicating more physically to be as clear as possible about his needs. Not a terrible way to operate. It’s pretty darn clear.

What can you learn from your dog?

You’re at work and that girl (the one you just don’t like) receives a delivery of flowers from her boyfriend. This annoys you more than it should and not just because she’s squealing in delight so everyone looks over. Why doesn’t *your* boyfriend send *you* flowers at work? *You* might want to be the person receiving the flowers, squealing and annoying people. But then again, in fairness, you haven’t told him clearly just how much you would love this romantic gesture. You’ve hinted. You’ll mention this girl today. But you haven’t said in black and white terms how much you’d be tickled pink by his thoughtfulness. What would your dog do? Your dog probably isn’t that interested in bouquets of roses, but he does have to be completely upfront about what he wants. When he sees you eating sausages and (obviously) also wants them, he stares at the sausages, at you and then licks his lips. Back and forth, back and forth. He couldn’t be more clear!

Ask for what you want.

Bark at the moon

There isn’t always a lot of point looking upwards when Cooper is out on an evening jaunt. The air doesn’t smell as awesome as the scent-laden grass and bushes do. There may be an occasional flutter of wings up there but it disappears very quickly before it can be investigated. So, not much point looking skyward… except, at full moon.

The moon is a strange thing. It’s this white enigma hanging way up there; oddly glowing. And then there are some nights where it’s round and bigger than usual, shining brightly, lighting up the dark world with an eerie shimmer. Cooper doesn’t know what the moon is, and he usually doesn’t think twice about it, but he is a little suspicious on these brighter nights, wondering why his usual cover of darkness is being disrupted. What’s going on? His nightscape is transformed with a muted white light and, honestly, he thinks it’s pretty freaky.

Cooper is a small beagle and he doesn’t know why things happen in this huge universe. He’s okay with that. But this moonlight unnerves him and makes him truly uncomfortable. How do you tell the moon you’re not happy with how it’s making you feel? That you don’t understand it? Heck, to just tell it you are here? Cooper tilts his head up and BARKS.

Cooper barking at the moon

He barks because he’s unsettled and the creepy moonlight is putting him off his usual sniffing routine. He barks because it’s too eerily quiet, but strangely bright, and there’s no one around. Then he barks because he likes the sound of his own voice and hearing it echo across the field. He barks because he feels so small and he just wants to feel heard. Can the moon hear him? He barks and barks. In the distance he can hear a fellow dog join in. They probably can’t see the moon from where they are – maybe indoors – but they’re on board with the sentiment. Barking gets it all out. All that bark stored up in his small body is now out there for the world to hear. Can you hear him? Cooper knows he may be little but he’s important anyway and WILL BE HEARD.

Once he has run out of all that excess bark, he’s ready to move on with the walk. Every now and then a stray bark will escape his lips, just so the moon knows he is still there.

Stupid moon.

What can you learn from your dog?

The world is big and it can make us feel so insignificant. Sometimes that seems a pretty heavy thought. All that we have inside us, all that’s unsaid or unasked. All the confusion about life gets bottled up by not wanting to say it out loud in case we feel stupid or disliked. All that quiet nodding to overbearing bosses, the choosing not to comment on provocative posts by outspoken friends on Facebook. Your dog has the same frustration. Get it all out! Release all those thoughts, concerns, anger and any other emotion you keep bottled up. Yell at the moon! Or in a journal, blog or tweet. Ramble that stream of consciousness about the injustice in your life to a friend, therapist or your hairdresser.

How good does it feel when all of that bark inside of you is out?

What’s new for you today?

Cooper is a dog with a job. A mission. A life purpose. We can’t all be so lucky as to know with absolute certainty what we should be doing in this world, but for him there was no choice. As a hound, it is an absolute calling. He MUST investigate all the smells.

Each trip out always brings new challenges as nothing ever remains the same. Cooper loves that his usual field returns to uncharted territory each time he arrives on the scene. Even if he enters the field at the exact same time as yesterday, the nasal landscape is completely different. He begins by sniffing heartily around the gate area. There’s a lot going on here as it’s the main entrance to his field and there’s an overwhelming amount of foot/paw traffic. He recognises a few; some of his friends he sees from time to time. There are human smells and footprints scuffing up the place, which he gives a cursory inhale. And smells from dogs he hasn’t met yet are more intriguing and he idly wonders if he’ll see them today.

Right, that’s enough now. He must go into the field proper, where the smells are more spaced-out. This is where the particularly fun smells are: from those entities that he rarely actually sees. Those animals who appear when he’s not around, or he sometimes sees speedily darting just outside his peripheral vision, far, far too fast. Rabbits. Squirrels. Moles. Badgers. Foxes. Mmmm. He has sometimes spotted some in the distance, but they don’t stay still for long. It’s as if they don’t want to say hello and that they actually enjoy being frustratingly illusive. But that just heightens the appeal, of course.

Cooper investigates smells

Cooper just loves to pick up a fresh trail from one of these secretive creatures. He follows the scent, scouting back and forth in a haphazard zig-zag. He must find out where this critter was going, eagerly following each twist and turn it made. But, sadly, eventually the track ends and no cheeky animal is found. It’s alright – tomorrow his field will be all new again and there will be different, delicious tracks to follow.

What can you learn from your dog?

Think of your commute to work. It’s the same every day, right? But, it’s not. There are different cars around you, or new people opposite you on the train. The weather. The music on the radio. Your usual routines are different every time. You may have noticed that your dog is absolutely fascinated by each new thing he finds along streets he’s plodded many-a-time. What will fascinate you today? The coffee shop sign with sad, deflating balloons attached? How about that tall guy wearing a strange angular hat, staring intently at the sky? Over there is a young sapling growing and intertwining through rusty railings. What’s new for you today?

Chase that impossible goal

When having a quiet morning walk, Cooper loves to see another owner and dog entering the park. It’s all very well for him to sniff those fascinating smell-drenched bushes, but it’s even more fun for him to enthusiastically greet a fellow canine. Ideally, they will then want to play with him. And what’s the best game? The Chase Me game, of course, and Cooper… well, he loves to play the role of the Chaser.

This tall, curly-haired owner has a beige and white mottled greyhound. Now, despite having met multiple greyhounds before, and especially this particular greyhound called Charlie, Cooper is not deterred from initiating the Chase Me game with a bold, demanding WOOF. In response, with a blink and a blur off springs Charlie – all long legs and raw speed – as he bounds across the length of the park. It looks like absolutely no effort at all.

Greyhound being chased

Cooper doesn’t let the fact that he has never even come close to catching up with a dog this fast put him off. He doesn’t think back to the many times he hasn’t been able to match Charlie’s speed. He thinks that at some point he will catch him, and today could be that day, no? Cooper is half the size, carrying a little holiday weight and has stubby legs more suited to crawling through undergrowth for investigation… but so what? He launches off in pursuit with a loud, rally cry of barking. Cooper’s paws hardly touch the ground as he gives it his absolute all to catch his buddy.Cooper chasing

To onlookers it seems like a fruitless pursuit. The owners just stare in bemusement as their dogs run in a wide circle around them, ignoring everything but the glorious chase.

Cooper could catch him, he really could.

What can you learn from your dog?

Humans seem to be plagued with a lot more self-doubt and overthinking than our dogs. Should you enter that 10K race? What if you end up in last place? You might feel pretty demoralised setting off against the greyhound equivalent friend who is so much better than you. But what would your dog do? He would see a challenger and think it might just be fun to compete with them. He would give it a good go.

Your dog 100% goes for it and it doesn’t cross his mind that his goal might just be impossible. And who cares if it is? It’s about the chase.

It’s okay to say no

Cooper begins to get a little tense as it nears the end of the presents being unwrapped from under the Christmas tree. He has been enjoying helping open them, and had a few things to eat, but he knows what’s coming. His owners think it’s VERY FUNNY INDEED to buy him a Christmas outfit for him to wear each year.

It's okay to say no

It isn’t funny.

The present will come out, held towards him with smirks and chuckles. They will have to unwrap it themselves as he’s certainly not helping them with this one. They caught him the first year, he thought it might be something nice. The second year he realised halfway through unwrapping what had traumatised him from the year before. The third year he kept an eye on escape routes and rushed for the door as soon as he got a whiff of their torturous plan. This year he has been sealed into the lounge.

But that doesn’t mean he has to like it.

Out it comes from its tissue paper enclosure. They are laughing. He is not (not that he could anyway: frankly a ridiculous way to express oneself). And – oh look – it’s a fluffy santa hat with bells, foam antlers and a girly ribbon to tie under his chin. NO. WAY.

What an abomination. How dare they make him look ridiculous; he has a certain gravitas to uphold and this won’t do. He can’t physically escape, but he can tell them that this isn’t acceptable. He turns his back and barks NO.

What can you learn from your dog?

Christmas is a funny time of year. For some it’s filled with joy and present-buying for loved ones. For others… well some of us don’t have that perfect Hollywood film family. Your dog has a line that he doesn’t want you to cross. What’s yours? How far are you prepared to let the annual family teasing go? Is it okay for your Grandmother to make jokey comments about your weight? Is it okay for your Sister to bring up that event, yet again, of which you’re not exactly proud?

It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to decide not to take those offhand remarks and ‘jokes’. It’s okay to tell them where your line is that you don’t want crossed.

Hey there, do you fancy receiving Barklife Beagle wisdom by email each week?