Everyone on the planet has probably seen the YouTube video "Ultimate Dog Tease." It's such a hit at our house that my wife and I will say "Yeah? And then what?" as shorthand for overenthusiastic hopefulness.
The video encapsulates mankind's relationship with dogs. Dogs deem humans as worthy of everlasting adoration no matter how many times we might disappoint. A person couldn't ask for more of any relationship.
The dog in the video "talks" with a human voice that has been dubbed in to replace the dog's vocalizations. I have known several canines for whom this technological sleight of hand would not have been necessary.
One such dog was Smokey, a mongrel who came to live with us when I was twelve. Smokey was purported to be half Black Labrador and half German Shepherd, but her behavior lead me to conclude that the Labrador half had beat up and kicked out the Shepherd part.
To say that Smokey loved hunting would be the understatement of the century. For her, hunting was all the best things of life rolled up into a single package, like a kid having Christmas, his birthday and the Fourth of July all at once.
I merely had to stroll out of the house with shotgun in hand and Smokey would commence to yelping and whining while leaping high into the air. I would ask her encouragingly, "Do you want to go hunting? Do you?" and she would respond with vocalizations that very nearly crossed over into the realm of speech.
Her enthusiasm for hunting never flagged. It was sad, though, to see her attempt to express her joyfulness after she had grown old and arthritic.
Another remarkable dog was Sam, our first Blue Heeler.
We got Sam as a puppy and quickly learned that Blue Heelers don't think they're a people; they know it. Owning a Heeler means never being alone. They follow you everywhere and wear an expression that seems to say, "What's going on? Can I help?"
Sam immediately began to help me with milking. Imagine my surprise when the pudgy little ball of fur began to nip at cows' heels as they exited the milking parlor! You wonder what he was thinking: "I weigh maybe 10 pounds and this cow weighs more than half a ton. Sounds like a fair fight to me!"
Blue Heelers are imbued with a keen sense of right and wrong. For instance, if my cows got out, Sam knew he wasn't allowed to chase them unless I first gave permission. He would stand at my side and whine and vocalize in an almost human fashion until I finally commanded "Go get 'em Sam!"
Sam was a fearless watchdog who had a predilection for nipping at strangers. But he never bit any higher than the heels, so it's not like anyone's life was in danger.
My wife and I were concerned about how Sam would react to the arrival of our first son. We needn't have worried as Sam instantly accepted Paul as a member of our pack. As far as Sam was concerned, this new arrival came with the bonus of being the right height for untrammeled face-licking.
After Sam went to that big cow pasture in the sky, we naturally acquired another Blue Heeler.
Pepper's most prominent personality component was her fierce hatred of rodents. Pepper was a pup when she found her first mouse nest. She poked her nose into the nest and the mother mouse responded by latching onto the dog's lip. This was a huge tactical error for the mouse and the entire rodentia order.
Pepper became a furious blur of yips and snarls. The day did not end well for the mouse family.
From then on we could induce Pepper to frantically dig anywhere - even in the middle of a gravel road! - by making mouse-like squeaks and asking encouragingly, "Where's the mousey?"
Pepper dug with such fervor that I often considered renting her out as a posthole installer.
She was also excellent with kids. If we ever wanted to know where the boys were, we simply whistled for the dog. Pepper would soon saunter out of the trees, followed closely by the boys.
I used this tactic so often that our sons also began to respond to the sound of my whistle. Which came in handy whenever we needed to find them in a crowd.
Our current dog is Sandy. He's a super-affable Golden Retriever who seems to think that we're the most fascinating people on the planet.
If we don't draw the shades, he'll sit on the deck and watch us through the window. And he'll invariably wear an expression that seems to say, "Yeah? And then what?"