So I have this dog.
His name is Hank. Hank-the-Mutt Timmons. I’ve sure I mentioned him before. But before I tell you a little more about Hank, I should tell you something else first.
I am a sucker for heartwarming dog stories.
And there is no shortage of heartwarming dog stories on the Internet. The tale of the loyal dog who is camping out till this day on the grave of his dearly departed master. Dash cam footage of the heroic German shepherd running ahead of an Alaskan trooper on a snow-packed road, leading the officer to a burning barn and his master. And, of course, the bravest of all, the police K9 who barreled full speed ahead into the face of danger, and ultimately gave his life in the apprehension of a criminal.
The stories make me blubber every single time.
Dogs have the purest form of devotion - it is unconditional. They bond. And then they are yours.
Which brings me back to Hank-the-Mutt. Hank can make me rethink my entire theory on dog behavior.
”Hey Hank,” I say.
He is stretched out on the living room floor. He doesn’t respond - he doesn’t move or raise his head or twitch his ears. But I know he hears me, because I can see his eyes move in my direction, as far as they can roll without moving any other part of his body.
”HANK,” I repeat.
He raises his head and shoulders off the floor. Slowly. And with an exaggerated dog sigh.
Hank is a master at communicating with body language. He just said, “I am 12 years old. This better be important.”
”Come here,” I order.
He grunts as he drags his senior dog girth into a standing position and trudges over to me. I sit down on the floor beside him and we engage in a 10-second stare.
”Sit,” I say.
He looks away, clearly disinterested in displays of obedience.
”Sit,” I repeat.
He yawns. And sits. Because HE wants to sit.
This is the part where I test his intelligence and his loyalty. This is the moment that challenges his unbreakable bond with me, his master of more than 10 years. This is the stuff that viral Internet stories are made of. With this next command, we will have our dog/master moment.
”Shake hands,” I say.
He stares at me blankly, as though his brain cavity is hollow and cavernous. Then he blinks. Twice.
Hank-the-Mutt Timmons just said in dog body language, “No speaka Engless.”
”Shake!” I tap his front leg, hoping to give him a hint. “Lassie could do this.”
At this point he apparently gets an unbearable itch, and his back foot starts that rhythmic scratch behind his ear. His dog tags jingle out a carefree little tune. It gets on my nerves.
”Well fine.” I get up and go into the kitchen and grab a bag of bacon-flavored dog treats.
He hears the treat bag and snaps to attention. As soon as I walk back into the living room, his bottom hits the floor. Ears are forward, shoulders and chest up. Eye contact is established.
And one front foot is pawing wildly into the air, desperately seeking a reciprocal human handshake. Dog body language for “Shake PLEASE!”
Yea. Hank-the-Mutt can ‘speaka’ Engless just fine. He probably has a better vocabulary than I do.
You know what I think? Behind every heartwarming dog story is the strong smell of bacon.
Theresa Timmons’ column appears every first and third Sunday. She is an Elwood resident and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.