Hearing Voices

Admit it. You talk to your dog. And he talks back. Harley and I have full conversations about important things like where to go for our walk today, how his knee feels, what he’d like with his kibble for breakfast. With Helen, we talk about her toys, what happened during her day, and how much she loves her big brother.

For me, Harley’s voice is that of a 15-year old boy: deep and hesitant. I can almost hear his head bowing, eyes look up, feet fidgeting, hopeful I’ll give him the keys to the car. I imagine there is a Lennie Small quality to his speech. Simple, uncomplicated by reason or detail.

His sentences are short and to the point. His tail sways low and slow, an ellipsis between his thoughts. “Hi, Mom…. Uh, Mom? Can I have some of that?” Or, “Uh, Mom? … Are you gonna eat that?” Or my favorite, usually delivered around 2:00 a.m., “Uh, Mom…. I gotta pee.” This one comes with a lick in the face and large head and neck reaching as far onto the bed as possible. If the situation is really serious and I’m slow to wake, that’s followed by a huge paw slapping at the mattress by my head. I’m up now.

In contrast, Helen, our little tomboy, has the enthusiasm of a 5-year old boy, voice high and breathless after sprinting in from the playground after recess. She is so excited to share her news that she often repeats words, loses her train of thought or just starts another thought before finishing the first.

For example, when I return after a long day of appointments, she meets me at the door, anxious to tell me about what she and Foxy the Fox, Heidi the Hydra or Roger the Rooster did that day. Her tail’s circle wag winds her up tightly until she just can’t hold it any longer, an exclamation point to her thoughts: “MAMA! MAMA! I missed you!! I-I-I uh, um played with Heidi and RIPPED OFF ANOTHER HEAD! It was—Mama it was, it was SO MUCH FUN!! And then—and then, Harley and me sat in the sun. He even—MaMa, he even let me have the good bed for awhile! WOW, MaMa, I MISSED YOU! Wait here! I’ll go get RoRoo! Cock-a-doodle-doo!! Cock-a-doodle-doo!! Cock-a-doodle-do!!” (Yes, the rooster noise is in the toy and repeats three times. Didn’t regret that purchase until I stepped on RoRoo on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night….)

Kathy and I enjoy our conversations with the kids. I don’t consider it anthropomorphic –I consider it an integral part of family life. Whether or not Harley and Helen understand the words we speak, they understand the intent and underlying meaning. The tone of our voices, our posture, our emotions, our touch, our smell, all tell a story—one that they interpret and respond to.

Every night before I go to bed, I kiss Harley on a spot between his eyes and tell him, “Good night, my sweet prince” and as I run my fingers across his head, I hear, “‘Night, Mom. Love you.” as he snuggles down to sleep.

I love you, too, buddy.


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