Friday, July 17, 2015

The Complexity of Clyde

By Sarah Reichert

Do you talk to your animals? I mean, really talk to them; engaging conversations where you answer for them in thoughtful responses. No? Just me?

I have two dogs. But one of them, by far, is more talkative. That is to say, Clyde has a very specific voice and character. We discuss the finer points of squirrel chasing, how he lost (and continues to lose on a daily basis) his alpha position to his sister, Bailey. We talk about why the cat’s such a jerk, how angry it makes him when Bailey watches him eat, and the ever-present question…what happened to his nuts? 

It’s insane and probably committable. But it also helps create real, flowing dialogue, and allows me insight to character traits that are both endearing and trying.

A typical conversation might go something like this:

“What’s up Clyde-boo?”

“Nothin’, mom…just layin here,” (raises his leg) “Wanna scratch my belly?”

“Sure, buddy.”

“Mom, remember when I had nuts?”

“Yeah, sorry about that…had to happen. Adoption rules.”

“Can I bite the cat?”

“Um…can you catch the cat?”

“I could…if you’d stop yelling at me when I chase him.”

“I do it for your own good.”

“Yeah, he’s pointy on all ends but the tail…I really want to grab the tail.”

‘You’re a good boy.”

“Wanna scratch my belly again?”

“Yep. Want to go for a walk?”

“Oh God Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh God a walk!!! I haven’t been on a walk in centuries!” (Does an impressive Down Dog stretch in preparation.) 

“We went yesterday.”

“Yesterday is centuries ago!” (Continues to bay in his baritone basset voice) “Ah, man, the leash? Can I go without the leash?” 

“No, buddy, when have I ever let you walk without it? Same as yesterday.”

“Yesterday is centuries ago.” (Dogs don’t understand tense any more than they understand that 24 hours isn’t the same as 100 years)

“You know the rules.” (He dodges away)

“But mom…I can’t catch the bunnies with the leash on.”

“Clyde, you couldn’t catch the bunnies with a jet pack on.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. Can I have cat food for breakfast?”

“Sure buddy.”

“Good, but make sure he watches me eat it.” (licks lips)

“Okay, Clyde.”

“And give me my share first because Bailey’s a pig.”

“Don’t say that too loud.”

“You won’t tell her I said that will you?”

And on it goes. 

Clyde, with his graying muzzle and expressive brown eyes that stare intently into mine, is a good conversationalist; a loving soundboard who always has an answer, to every question (usually yes to food and walks, no to vets and ear cleaning). He is a character and not just of my own making, who enriches my life and my sense of empathy.

Who are some of your favorite real-life characters?


Patricia Stoltey said...

It does not surprise me one bit to hear a pet owner describe a conversation like this in detail. My discussions with Katie Cat are similar, and all about what Katie wants and when she wants it (like right now!).

Karen said...

I'm so happy to read that someone else has conversations and talks for their pets. My family thinks I'm nuts, and they have almost (but not quite) convinced me they were right. But, now I know I'm not alone! Maybe it's a 'writer thing?'

Anonymous said...

I typically talk to my dog like I talk to my husband. "Cut it out!" "Why now?" "What NOW?!" "That's adorable, yet so strange." They are one and the same. Eli is an ACD, which means he's OCD. He consisently looks annoyed by your behavior unless he wants you to grab something for him to snack on or play with. If Eli were human, he would be disappointed that you mixed the short socks with the crew socks.

We have another dog, Ellie, who is a mix of Cattle Dog AND Border Collie. I'm pretty sure my husband speaks to her like he speaks to me. She's an eccentric, loud mouth, goofball that often forgets what she walked in the room to do. He often says to her: "What are you DOING?!" "Why there?" "Seriously?"

Eli, being a perfectionist and easily annoyed, somehow only gets along with Ellie (dog wise). Eli is antisocial but would do anything to protect Ellie. He is, however, intollerant of any other dog that appears to be as ridiculous as her. He has tried numerous time to teach her how to people. She only knows how to dog.

Ellie is social and checks in on Eli because she LOVES LOVES LOVES him and all his unadmitted imperfections. Other dogs are immediately aware of Eli's unwillingness to be friends. Ellie doesn't care, she is a friend to all who smile back.

And those are the furry members in our pack!
Wait, what was I responding to?

Me: Ellie, what are you doing?

Ellie: No idea.

Me: Yeah, me too.


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