By Louise Ure
There’s a new man in my life. Unfortunately, he has fleas and pees all over the house.
You might remember my earlier elegy to Angry Angus, my hundred and twenty pound Golden Retriever with an attitude problem. Angus died last October and I made my husband promise me a dog-less break for a few months. First, because I missed that nasty dog so much, second because I knew we had a lot of travel coming up with the book tour, and that’s tough to do with a new dog until they settle in.
He agreed, although I later learned that he was still carrying around dog biscuits in his pockets, and he’d been logging on to the Golden Retriever Rescue web site on a daily basis to check out new arrivals like he was some kind of doggie-porn aficionado.
It’s April now, and he’s finally worn me down. And Nameless dog has arrived.
We got a call from the area coordinator for Golden Retriever Rescue, asking if we’d be willing to foster an eight-year old dog that had just come in. He’d been left at a vet’s office in the Mission, a heavily Latino part of town, by an old man who said he was dying of cancer and couldn’t take care of the dog anymore.
This veterinarian (all of them, really, at Animal Farm in San Francisco) had a heart of gold. He told the old man that he would take care of the dog, but within hours was afraid he wouldn’t be able to live up to that promise, as he had discovered a softball-sized tumor in the dog’s chest. Rather than simply put the animal to sleep, he performed the necessary surgery himself and sent a sample off to the lab to be tested. It was benign. He breathed a sigh of relief and set about finding the pup a home.
And so he arrived here this week, with 120 stitches and an incision that spans three quarters of his torso.
They say his name is Rusty, but I have my doubts.
You see, the dog speaks no English – not even the name Rusty elicits a response from him – but he’s hell on wheels when you speak to him in Spanish.
No worries, you would think. Louise speaks Spanish. And so I do. But what I didn’t realize is that dog Spanish is as different to spoken Spanish as baby talk is to adult conversation. I’ve never spoken to a Spanish dog before, and I have no idea if I am giving him commands the same way his first owner did.
Here’s what I’m trying (and please forgive the lack of appropriate accent marks):
Sit Sientate or Sentado
Stay down Quedate abajo
Lie Down Echete or Acuestate
Roll over Da vueltas
Go to bed Vete a tu cucha
Shake Dame la patita
Quiet Quieto or Calmate
Come Ven aca
Get in the car Subete or Arriba
Get out of the car Bajete or Abajo
Let’s go Andale
Go inside Pasa
I’ve had some success, although I think the situation, along with hand signals and tone of voice, probably have as much to do with the pup’s obedience as the words themselves. (If we’ve just gone down to the garage and I’ve opened the back door of the car, “subjete” is the most likely thing I’m asking him to do.)
He’s making a pretty good adjustment, all told. Yeah, he’s still peeing in the house, but less frequently. And he goes for any food in sight, even on a dining room table or a countertop, which has to stop.
On the other hand, he wakes up happy and seems eager to please. He can walk farther and faster everyday, and is happy to introduce himself to anyone on the street. And I know I’m using the right word when I say “besame.”
And we might be working our way into English commands, soon. It’s easier to teach the dog English than my husband Spanish.
We think we’ll call him Cisco.
Do we have any Spanish speakers among our ‘Rati friends? Are there other words I should be using or trying for these commands?
Got any dog stories you want to tell?
And Happy April Fool’s Day! Feeling foolish anyone?