Conversations with Lucy

Sometimes I talk to Lucy. Okay I admit it. I talk to her whenever I see her. What do we talk about? Anything, really. It might be about the weather, what the cats are doing, where she’d like to go for exercise today, or just whatever I’m thinking at that moment (whether it’s interesting or not).

I might compliment her striking black mask. Something along the lines of “Look at you! Look at your black mask and how pretty it is. Are you a real live Leonberger?”

No answer. No reaction. Just that familiar sideways glance at me.

That glance. There it is again. And speaking of dog expressions, sometimes I think it’s easy to confuse human and dog body language. As closely aligned as we are, human and dog language is vastly different. For example, we all know what it means when a person rolls their eyes. Sarcasm, disgust, annoyance, something like that. But if a dog appears to be rolling his eyes, it doesn’t quite mean the same thing. They might just be looking up to see if there’s food on the ceiling.

Why would there be food on the ceiling?? No idea, but smart dogs want to be ready just in case.

With our canine companions, it can be a challenge to read their unique body language correctly. And be able to translate it. There are times when I’m talking to Lucy while she’s trying to sleep. When I key on certain words she knows (walk, do-you-want, lake, treat, pretty puppy, etc.), an eye will open and look near but away from me. It always looks like she’s trying to give me the evil eye.

So I respond.

“Am I getting on your nerves, talking to you when you’re trying to sleep?”

Again, no answer.

“Hey you’re losing some of the black on your mask. I can see more brown and you’re getting some white around your muzzle as well. You promised me you’d be a gray muzzle, remember. That’s 12 years. Minimum.”

Nothing. So I might move onto picking stray hairs away from her eyes (there always seems to be one poking near her eyeball). She usually closes her eyes and drifts off whenever I do this. I always wonder if she’s faking asleep so I’ll just go away.

There I go again, personifying dogs.

But then, there are animals that fake dead to convince us to move on. Could Lucy be playing possum?

Now, while she’s out cold, I take the opportunity to examine her nails to see if they need trimming. At this, she opens an eye and looks directly at me. I’ve seen her snap at cats and dogs if they disturb her when sleeping, so I often wonder if I’m next.

“You’re going to bite me on the face one day for annoying you like this, aren’t you?”


“I mean, you are a dog after all. So you could snap. Think you might do that one day?”

She’s starting to breathe heavily now, asleep again.

“It would probably happen when you’re older and maybe a bit more moody. Not that you get moody, or anything. But you know…”


“Well…if I’m going to get bit on the face by a dog, I want it to be by you, Luce. Just make sure you sink those canines in hard, because I’m sure I’ll cherish the scars when you’re gone.”

Oh she’s out, now. My voice is just soothing gibberish. So I keep talking.

And then I suddenly hear Bear’s thoughts in my head: You two are both crazy, especially you, human. Leave the girl alone. And let the lion sleep tonight.

Brave Bear and the Luce, 2013

Brave Bear and the Luce, 2013

Lucy’s Sense of Time

Lucy’s mind possesses a clear sense of time passing. She shows this in several ways. For example, I could be gone for just a couple of days, but the greeting received upon arriving home can only be described as out of control (Lucy’s greeting, that is. Pia shows far more restraint).

Lucy Tells Time

Lucy Tells Time

Lucy always greets humans she likes with loud cries of joy, along with physical contact. This contact might involve trying to ram you or jumping up so she can see you right at eye level. She’ll give a good sniff while up there and can tell exactly what you had to eat that day.

But this is just the typical reaction you get after being gone for the day. After an overnight absence, her greetings are far more dramatic. Her pitches are longer and louder, clearly more emotional. She almost seems to be scolding you for being away so long.

Some say dogs have no sense of time but I don’t buy it. I don’t buy it because I see that Lucy recognizes the difference between short absences (say, two nights away), and longer absences (like five nights or more). Upon returning from a longer absence, her reaction is that much intense. And it lasts longer, too.

If I hold up an airport french fry, I have to be careful because her eyes are wide and wild. This means she could make a lightning-fast bolt for me and bump my face face before I could even hope to react. She’s big but she’s agile. These longer and stronger reactions sometimes have me dodging her advances and even hiding behind barricades like furniture until the moment passes.

Now I’m talking about Pia, not Lucy.

[Kidding! Pia just kidding if you're reading this.I was talking about Lucy.]

Back to reality…so I guess the scientific conclusion is that Lucy can not only sense that I’ve been gone but also whether it’s been a long or short absence. And she’s made it very clear that the long absences annoy her more than the short.

This continues into the next day, too. The morning following my return home, she expresses surprise when she sees me upon waking up. It seems she settles into a routine while I’m gone and stops expecting to see me in the morning. Then I show up and she really takes notice. Instead of simply watching me walk out of the room at 5:00 am, she will follow me, wag her tail, and crash her head into me. This is an invitation to scratch her hears and say a few kind words before leaving for the day.

And then I have additional dog hair to show off at work. After I’m back for a couple of days, she goes back to just eyeing me silently as I walk out the door.

What experiences have you had with your dog’s sense of time? Do you thing he/she can measure it or at least has a feel for time passing?



The Rodent Problem

At 5:30 am, I entered the dark kitchen and switched on the light. There, seated on her throne, was Trinity the Cat. She was staring back at me eerily under the soft glow of the dim kitchen light. Some mornings she’s there, others she’s not. I never know what to expect.She hissed and made me jump again.

Alone with Trinity in the dark

Alone with Trinity in the dark

Today, she shows me some interest as if she wants to communicate.

“You have a rodent problem,” Trinity hissed.

“What?” I whispered back in disbelief. “What did you just say?”

“A rodent problem,” she repeated emotionless.

Now I was concerned. If there is one thing cats can sniff out, it’s a rodent. What did we have? Mice? Rats? Something else?

I approached the cat and she looked at me warily. There was always an uneasy peace between the felines and canines in the house. And the tension is such that there can be no neutrality – not even among the humans. You are either in the cat camp, or the dog camp. And I was clearly marked by the canines.

Trinity upon her throne

Trinity upon her throne

“Well,” I began…feeling a bit like a traitor for speaking to the cats. “Why don’t you go catch the thing, then? Isn’t that what cats do?”

“No,” she replied without looking at me.

“No?” I repeated. “Wait a minute, yes it is. If you want to continue to be fed, it is.”

“No,” she repeated, unfazed by my veiled threat to withhold sustenance. She knew there were at least two humans in the house who backed her kind.

I chirped a special sound to get Lucy’s attention. She responded in seconds, but took her sweet time walking down the staircase to join me in the dark kitchen. Upon arriving, her hair and ears looking all disheveled. She stared up at me with the sleep still visible in both eyes. I sensed her curiosity at why I had called her downstairs so early in the morning.

I spoke up. “This one says we have a rodent problem,” I told her while gesturing to Trinity. Lucy tilted her head slightly to one side. She was confused.

“Mouse. Animals. Moving toys for you.”

Now she understood. I could see it in her alert, soulful eyes.

Lucy began immediately searching the home with her nose to the ground. She has a very discriminating sniffer and, while she might not be able to catch the rodent, she could certainly locate it.

Minutes passed with only the distinct sound of a canine sniffing for clues, followed by the occasional “tap tap tap” of her thick nails on the hardwood floor.

A few more moments passed, and Lucy walked over to Trinity and took a quick, playful lunge at her. Trinity hissed loudly and jumped up from her red velvet throne onto the kitchen counter.

I stood there wondering what it was all about. And the Bella entered the room and the mystery was solved.

“There is the rodent I mentioned before, you dummies,” screeched Trinity.

Lucy knew she’d been had. And the girl does not like having her dignity tarnished by being sent on a wild goose chase. That’s why she took a shot at Trinity. The cat stood there on the counter, shaking her head back and forth in a sort of cat mocking gesture.

Bella, who was always wise enough to avoid feline politics, stood there looking bewildered. Lucy had completely lost interest by now and was standing by the back door, ready to go out and scare off the joggers.

Trinity took a seat back on her royal throne, ready to hold court for the rest of the day.

And as the strange scene folded up for the morning, let it by known that the cats play games. Dogs seek truth, and Bella is NOT a rodent!