Instead of watching TV reruns and reading boring novels during this Pandemic Lockdown, I wish I could spend a few delightful hours again interacting with Miss Molly, my late, lamented Shih-Tzu dog.
I like to think we were good friends. At least Molly tolerated me. We didn’t actually converse, but there was a communication of sorts and occasionally a miscommunication.
Sometimes Molly would sit staring at me for five unblinking minutes with no tail wagging and no responses to my questions. Dog specialists say staring is a dog’s attempt to make an emotional connection with its owner. Perhaps, but I noticed the stare was even more piercing when I was holding a baloney sandwich.
During one of these prolonged staring sessions, with no cold cuts involved, I’d say, “You have to go out, right, Molly?” I’d hold up her leash and she’d walk to the door. I assumed then I’d broken the canine code. She needed to go for a walk. But thinking back now, perhaps not. Maybe when Molly saw the leash, she thought, “Oh rats, I have to take the old guy out again.”
This is likely closer to the truth because Molly was always in charge of our walks, deciding when and where we made our turns and stops, which trees and hydrants to sniff for DNA samples, when to detour around large dogs and stop to touch noses with the smaller ones. Molly made all the navigational decisions as we cruised around the neighborhood.
As First Mate, I always told Captain Molly I would not tolerate a dry run. But she could be stubborn and pull rank. Molly was able to exhibit her mind over bladder ability and we often returned to port with a full ballast. And we eventually had to have our living room rug professionally cleaned.
But what do dogs, including Molly, think? Canine head shrinkers say dogs experience almost all of our human emotions – joy, fear, anger, disgust, excitement, contentment, distress and love, but not guilt, pride or shame. Lucky dogs. They just do their thing and they never look back.
Molly helped me interpret tail-wagging messages which are not necessarily friendly greetings. That furry antenna sends signals and warnings to other dogs who know the difference between “Howdy!” ( a slight short wag at medium height) and “Back off Buster!” (vertical, high speed wag.)
High pitched barking, according to Molly, is usually friendly, and low pitched is the opposite. A low, slow, continous bark, she demonstrated , is a danger signal. I distinctly heard that warning bark when a town council candidate rang our doorbell. His promised reforms sounded very encouraging, but I decided to yield to Molly’s message. I assume other town dogs sent out similar warnings, because that candidate and his running mates were soundly defeated, Who knows? Doggy treats might have won the election for them.
Molly barked infrequently, maybe once a month when we accidentally locked her out on the back porch. Mostly she grunted as Shih-Tzus are known to do. Sometimes it seems she was muttering actual words. When I scratched her belly I thought I heard, “Oh that’s good!” But I remember her mostly and lovingly as loyal and considerate, always close at hand and sometimes under foot. It’s her companionship I miss most. For instance, she made sure that I never ate alone. What a great dog!