July 27, 2011

Pets and Language

Jackie, December 2009

The following post originally appeared online in 2004. I'm pairing it now with some photographs of the wonderful dogs (and birds) in my family's life. Enjoy!

The media is all abuzz about new science findings regarding dogs who "are much smarter than scientists have thought." Thousands of dollars of research might have been saved, had they spent anytime at my home, or observing the lives of many of my friends who also have dogs. Here's what I could have told scientists, for free:

  1. Dogs know when you are happy, sad, busy, angry, worried, ill, and in love.
  2. They know when you mean it, don't mean it, aren't sure if you mean it, and are consulting dog behavior books to find out if you should mean it.
  3. Dogs know that exercise is good for you.
  4. Dogs know that high-protein diets make them happier.
  5. They can find their way around the neighborhood and communicate with the neighbors.
  6. They understand that mail comes six days a week and sometimes what's in the mail is worth yelling about it.
  7. Dogs realize that fashion isn't important.
  8. Dogs are comfortable with all their body parts and the body parts of those they love.
  9. Dogs are not afraid of other dogs bigger than themselves. In fact, the smaller the dog, I've found, the more emphatic they are to express their bravery.
  10. Dogs can tell who is naughty and who is nice.

Those of us who love animals are glad they are finally getting the respect they deserve.

My sister Joyce with Susie, circa 1974. Susie was my wonderful pet through junior high and high school. She died when I was in college. (Photo by Woodrow Phelps)

My mother with her dog, Brownie, circa 1936.

"The Best Dog in the World," Buster. Buster was a rescued dog from the Bishop Animal Shelter in Bradenton, Florida. He was the dog my sons grew up with. 1991 - 2003

Tyler, 2011.

My sister, Joan, has two very smart African grey parrots. Koby, 2008.

Beautiful Maximillian pionus Gracie, 2010.
Note: You can view a rather silly video on YouTube of Gracie taking a shower at THIS LINK.

Pretty Girl Farley, was Mark's dog until we married. Now she's mine too. She is so cuddly and soft, fast and smart as can be. This past year she had major knee surgery, but she's doing well now. Farley was a rescued dog and a real gem! Below, is a drawing I did of Farley shortly after we met.

Goffins cockatoo, Bailey. Sadly, she died in 2006, a few weeks after I received a contract to write "Open Your Heart with Pets: Mastering Life through Love of Animals" (Dreamtime Publishing, 2007).

Bailey helping my son Bryce with a puzzle.

This handsome 30-something Amazon parrot is Jake. Jake was a rescued parrot who now lives a happy life of retirement in North Carolina. Jake was the parrot with a dozen "Hellos!" (Bored "hello" for when the phone rang. Friendly "hello" for when someone new visited. Seductive, think Joey on "Friends", "helllloooo..." for if I ever walked up to his cage half-dressed.)
Here I am with my first dog, Joey, in the early 1960s. (Photo by Woodrow Phelps)

Do not dismiss the humble teddy bear hamster as a pet. Timmy spent most of his life in a cage, but loved to sit on my knee and watch television. His short life ended in 2001. (Photo by Sonja Beal)

Above is the last photo taken of our Pomeranian Sable who died in 2004 at age 13. Before she became ill, Sable had long fur and looked like a little black bear. She drew curious glances when riding around town in my car.

Dogs with dark faces are difficult to photograph. This photo was taken by my sister Joyce and is of her dog Oscar. Oscar died not too long ago and Joyce rescued Hayley, a big dog who now enjoys a good home and keeps our mother company during the day. (See photo below by Joyce Phelps).

Animals are not just a part of my personal life, but of my work life as well…

From Still Her Spirit Sings by Robert W. Kurkela. Bob's loving dog Spirit was mostly black, but I altered his appearance a bit to fit the format of the book. I came to love the character of Spirit after working with Bob and Kidzpoetz Publishing on this book.

Above and below are drawings from They Called Me Beautiful. (I self-published the retelling of the classic story Beautiful Joe with illustrations under a pen name.) Above, you can see the children who rescued Joe from the hands of a cruel master. Below is Joe's friend, Dandy.

All photos on this page, unless otherwise noted, copyright by Janice Phelps Williams. All rights reserved.

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