I was on deadline, struggling to communicate with my computer (and failing). Cali came over and ever-so-gently nudged me. I patted her and kept working. Another nudge. I had taken a ball-throwing break about 10 minutes earlier, so I distractedly said, “Not now,” and kept working.
Another nudge. I ignored her. More nudges. Insistent, but so, so gentle and sweet. I patted her, told her to wait a few minutes, told her she was cute. Not what she wanted. This went on for about 10 minutes, I’m embarrassed to admit.
Finally, deciding that rebooting my computer was the only possible step, I shut everything down, rebooted, and got up. “OK, Cali, where’s your ball?” I asked, wandering outside.
Cali wasn’t outside. Neither was her ball. I called her again and looked around the yard. No Cali, no ball.
The ball was under the sofa. Actually two balls were under the sofa, one dry, dusty, covered with tufts of fur. So much for my housekeeping skills. And my communication skills.
I gave her back the ball. She graciously allowed me to throw it twice, but really, all she wanted was her ball. And her long-lost second ball. She happily stretched out in the yard nuzzling the balls as I went back to work.
I’m constantly amazed by how clearly our dogs communicate — if we’re paying attention. And of course, this clear and detailed exchange reveals how little actual words matter to human-dog conversations. No, our communication does not suffer from dogs’ inability to speak human language. It suffers from our inability to pay attention, to focus on what they are saying — without words, but with eloquence nonetheless.