Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Talking Dogs

Who says dogs can't talk? Watch this and be amazed. The trouble with dogs is that their voices are so cacophonous. Fray Paco would have given all of them a severe tongue lashing. Uncle Matthias strapped a wide suede piece around Rex , one of our German Shepherd's belly. He often rode on their backs this way. 
These dogs cackling, amazing in and of itself because most of us now know that they have the ability to mimic sound. They must be motivated by their owners. Dogs are affectionate animals. I searched for a wolf but I don't think any would ever be available. I doubt they would ever stoop to please a master, most are Masterless. That's the way they like it. Wolves are superb friends to have in the wild. They are loyal and intelligent. They don't tolerate pleasing a human just to please him. That's why I love them more. They are free and independent spirits. Of course they are predators, that is their calling. 
Which is not to say I am not fond of dogs. I have had quite a few since childhood.I used to communicate with Dvorak, my Komondor without speaking. Yes! he could read my mind. Any man I found overbearing and drunk, Dvorak would tear off the cuffs of their trousers. If you have ever seen a 130 pound Komondor, one meter high covered in curly  white wool with canine teeth like scissors, you would sober up pronto. In the steppes of Pushta, Komondors guard sheep and horses against bears. Wager on the Komondor. They usually win their battles against bears who would dare to attack their sheep and horses and cattle entrusted to them.


  1. "I doubt they would ever stoop to please a master"

    Mmm, but my boy Sam (Sam Gamgee, half Poodle, half Cocker Spaniel) isn't exactly a sycophant. His vocabulary includes a distinctive set of grumbling phrases meaning "play with me, damn it" (he sounds like South Park's Eric Cartman at such times),
    other words for "I gotta pee, NOW!", etc. And another peculiar phrase for "damn noisy neighbours"
    (the Arabs next door who hate dogs; we're thinking of getting Sam a jacket with a Star of David on it, just to irritate them.)

    As he's half German (Poodle) and half British (Spaniel), his ethnic background is identical to mine.
    I attribute his high intelligence, love of order and self-obsessed neurosis to his German half, and his redeeming sense of humour and arrant libertarianism to his English half. And as he's a true blue Australian male, he's obsessed with my beer bottles.

    Astrologically I attribute his egocentricity and demands for immediate gratification to his sun in Aries, and his compulsive habitual attacks on shoes, socks and feet to his Moon-Mars conjunction in Pisces. (Pisces rules the feet.)

    But Sam doesn't compulsively type on my keyboard, like my graphomaniac Gemini cat John Paul used to do. John Paul was a cat of the written word, rather than the spoken word, and with his Capricorn ascendant he
    had a very dry, understated persona behind which resided a very active mind, at least during the two hours a day when he was awake. He was a typical Capricorn-rising opportunist, but with his Venus in Cancer on my ascendant, he loved to give me gifts, in the most generous way a cat can imagine: HALF-killed mice, so that I could have the pleasure of killing them myself. In a cat's mind, there is no greater love than that.

  2. Buona sera, Isabella,

    My cats were fascinated with the talking dogs in the clip. Speaking of which, I recall that when I lived in Rome, back in the early 60's, a woman living in Florence named Elisabeth Mann, a relative of Thomas Mann, was famous for having a talking poodle. I think this poodle could also add and subtract.

    Buona notte,


  3. Coincidentally, this is the subject of today's "Mother Goose and Grimm" comic strip:


  4. Here's another illustration of the problem of translating Dog words into Human words: Yesterday a domestic goose got lost and landed in our enclosed yard. Sam went frenetic, and then the goose seemed to have gone away. But after nightfall, when Sam was out he began barking and trying to flush the goose out of the bushes, where the goose had hidden.

    There was no way to solve this until daylight came, when I was able to see the goose and remove it
    from our premises properly. (Sadly, we could find no owner, and the SPCA would not take it, so we removed it to a safe area; it'll probably make a home on the Swan River and go feral there.)

    Anyway, when my wife (who never had a dog until now) asked me why Sam behaved that way - so passionately, compulisively determined to flush out the goose - I explained to her,

    "You're a professional linguist, right? (Translator of Chinese, PhD, etc) You know how hard it is to translate from Chinese into English without losing some meaning? Well if you asked Sam to explain in his Dog language why he compulsively chases birds, he would say something like when the Chinese say, "There is no 'why'; it's just the Chinese way of doing things. There is no exact word for it in English."

    Same thing. There are no Human words to explain what's in Sam's mind why he chases the birds.
    But in his own mind it makes perfect sense.

    I told her, in sum, "For Sam, chasing birds is an existential thing."

    And frankly, I'd really rather not know everything that's in his mind, because I think his "cosmology" would be frighteningly sophisticated.

  5. PS, to Jeanne (JAR),

    I imagine that as Elisabeth Mann's poodle was an adopted relative of Thomas Mann, s/he would have had an ambivalent ontology, with exquisitely balanced tension between a Naphta-like Dog's way of being a hyper-transcendent voluptuary and paradoxical sensualist, versus a Settembrini-like Dog's way of being a rational Humanist.

    Thus, I think the Naphta side of Elisabeth Mann's poodle would think, "as my Mistress Elisabeth is like God to me, I must strive to refrain from lusting after the tasty treats she gives me" - but then he would (if he could) do his dog-house's interior design all in luxurious, sensual embroidered tapestries depicting his mistress Elisabeth distributing tasty treats to saintly doggies...

    ...while on the OTHER hand, the Settembrini side of Ms Mann's poodle would think like a Humanist - a lover of Man (as all the best dogs are) - and say, "it will benefit the general welfare of me and my Humans, if I accept and eat this tasty treat, and I will thank her for it courteously as part of our social contract."

    (By the way, as I assume you know, these are all allusions to Mann's "Zauberberg", aka "Magic Mountain", one of my favourite books!)

    And then I imagine, the "Hans Castorp" aspect of Elisabeth Mann's dog would think:

    "I will remember my Dog-nature in my heart, remembering, however, that being JUST a dog becomes ominiously sensual and malicious, the instant we let it govern us.
    For the sake of gentleness and love, Dog will let lust for doggie-treats have no sway over his heart! And with this I wag my tail."

    (Cf, what Hans Castorp said when he woke up from the chapter titled "Snow" in "Magic Mountain."


  6. More on Elisabeth Mann's poodle: I just remembered that Elisabeth Mann's married name was Borghese. The daughter of Thomas Mann, she became known as Elisabeth Mann Borghese following her marriage to an Italian. Having lived in Los Angeles with her parents and siblings during the war, she enjoyed a sojourn in Florence with the famous dog. I believe she later moved to Canada and was known as an expert in some field of science ... marine biology? At the time she was living in Florence as the mistress of the famous poodle, an article appeared on the dog in Life magazine, probably in the late summer to early fall of 1961... it could have been later, but I doubt no later, than end of 1962. And to my recollection, the dog was famous for being able to type actual words.


Isabel Van Fechtmann

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