El Perro

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                 Quedate

Down               Abajo

Stay down       Quedate abajo

Lie Down         Echete or Acuestate

Roll over         Da vueltas

Go to bed       Vete a tu cucha

Shake              Dame la patita

Speak              Ladra

Quiet              Quieto or Calmate

Come              Ven aca

Kisses              Besame

Get in the car        Subete or Arriba

Get out of the car    Bajete or Abajo

Stop/Halt       Alto

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?


28 thoughts on “El Perro

  1. billie

    Louise, he’s so handsome – Cisco will soon be a multi-lingual dog. 🙂

    I have a multi-lingual horse story. Our Hannoverian mare (25 last week!) came from Germany as a younger gal. She’s an amazing horse – dressage, a very reputable brood mare, and now therapy horse – and also happens to have arthritic knees and one eye.

    When we got her, she seemed laid back and the perfect therapy horse, but with all my nutritional supplementation, regular injections of Adequan for joints, and a regular job, she suddenly seemed to get about 12 years younger and became quite the high-spirited woman.

    One day she was being very demanding and I tried to settle her down. Suddenly it occurred to me she was trained in Germany – so I used a few choice German words to see what her response might be. She stopped dancing around and slowly turned her one eye to me like “what the hell?”

    It was so funny. Since then I’ve learned that all she needs to calm down is for ME to get very centered and still. She is so attuned, and responds instantly.

    Now, at 25, I’ve retired her from riding and given her the job of taking care of our 8-month old miniature donkey. She’s in her element – and doing wonderfully with him. He keeps her moving and keeps her busy.

    Enjoy your new man – I hope he heals quickly and gets the swing of his new home. You’re all lucky to have found one another.

  2. Rae

    Louise, congrats on your new pal, and Billie, I love that story.

    As I type this, there’s a creature on my lap. I recently inherited two beautiful Persian cats, having annoyed the gods by declaring my intention to remain pet-free for a few years. Did you know how easily Persians’ fur can get matted? I didn’t. It finally got so bad that there was more mat than there was fur, and off to the vet we went. I came home with two lizard-poodle-Gollum creatures – they are bald, except for poodle puffs on their feet and tails, and they are completely embarrassed and needy. Cracks me right up.

  3. Louise Ure

    Billie, I love your multi-lingual and multi-talented horse story. (In fact, I just plain love picturing your life!)

    And Rae, I saw the pictures of those kitties. They truly are Space Invader Felines with that new cut.

  4. patty smiley

    My beloved PJ was a used dog. He never learned that peeing in the house was not a good thing, but after a while it just became part of his charm. Congratulations to Cisco for finding you and you him.

  5. Louise Ure

    Sophie, I don’t know if you still take your ancient friend to the dog park or on off-leash walks, but I love the notion of you yelling “Stella!” like some kind of demented Brando.

    Hi Patty? Could PJ have been a West Highland Terrier? I never thought of my adopted senior dogs as “used” dogs, but yes they are.

  6. Karen Olson

    LOL, Louise! A dog that only understands Spanish! Of course I’ve got two cats that ignore me regardless of any language spoken.

    He’s gorgeous, and wait until Julia gets a look at him!

  7. Cornelia Read

    Cisco is gorgeous!! And as you know, Louise, I have before and after shots of Rae’s cats. Just in case they ever try to give her any serious attitude, once the fluff grows back in.

  8. Louise Ure

    Julia’s going to fall in love with this guy, Karen. He’s only 55 pounds, so he looks like an Angus mini-me.

    I’m going to import that “Que chevre!” like, Pari. How cool, indeed.

  9. Elaine Flinn

    I think Angus would be pleased.

    ‘Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened’ (I stole that from Anatole France)

    You and Bruce are going to heaven, you know that, don’t you?

  10. Fiona

    Oh, how wonderful for the pooch to have a home with you.

    We have collected second-hand Shelties and are on our fourth. It took a while for her to recover from her years before us, but we have a sweet, loving, furry member of the family who is great with our kids and cats.

    Thank goodness there are people like you who will open their hearts and homes to rescued dogs.

    One thing that worked for us, along with crate-training (for bedtime), was a leash connecting me to the dog unless s/he was playing in the fenced yard, being walked by my DH or kids, or was in the crate.

    Each dog needed a different length of time, but it averaged 4 weeks. By that time, accidents were a thing of the past.

    We have trained our latest dog to ring a string of bells on the door when she wants to go out. I has cut down on the barking a great deal–and Shelties bark a lot.

  11. Louise Ure

    Yeah, Elaine, I think Angus would be pleased. Although he really couldn’t stand other dogs at all.

    And Fiona, you sound like a pro. Great advice about the leash training, but I especially like the notion of the bells!

  12. Sharon Wheeler

    He’s a very handsome chap! I laughed at the thought of it being easier to teach the dog English than your husband Spanish :o)

  13. Dave Arnold

    Hey Louise -One of the guys I shoot with is Chinese and brings his two Labs to the club with him to acclimate them to the sound of shotguns. The other day I jokingly asked him if they speak Chinese. “Of course”, he says in absolute sincerity…

    Truly sorry about the raccoon.

  14. Tom

    Well done, Louise, and best wishes with Cisco.

    Fiona, brilliant ideas; hope to remember them if there’s ever another dog to bring into the pack.

  15. Kathryn Lilley

    This one always works for me:Want a biscuit? (spoken in a very excited tone)¿Quiere una galleta? (okay, so I had to look up ‘biscuit’ on freetranslation.com, so hopefully it doesn’t come through as ‘Polly want a cracker?’

  16. Louise Ure

    Tom, I think we should all hire Fiona for dog training needs!

    Thank you, Kathryn. That one’s going to come in VERY handy.

    And David’s reference to the raccoon? A raccoon got trapped up on the roofdeck recently and couldn’t find a way out. Cisco found his body the first time I took him up there, and of course wanted to play with the maggoty, decomposing corpse like a rag doll. Ugh.

  17. JT Ellison

    Aw, Louise, I’m just bawling. Love the story, love Cisco, and love you.

    I have a friend whose daughter trains and shows rottweilers. She only speaks to them in German.

    Much luck to you on the translations. xo

  18. Michelle Gagnon


    When I first brought home Maggie from the pound, I was a modern dancer who lived in a fifth floor walk-up studio apartment, and she was a five-month old dog that wasn’t housetrained (not even close). I’d never had a dog before and man, it was definitely a baptism by fire. It took almost a year to housebreak her, mainly because in her excitement she could generally only make it a flight or two down from my apartment before releasing her bladder. For about six months I carried her up and down the stairs six times a day (and mind you, by the end of that six months she weighed fifty pounds.)I developed enormous biceps and a burning desire to live on street level. Maggie just turned 14 years old today, btw. And sadly, all that housetraining appears to now be reversing itself…

  19. Louise Ure

    JT, somehow rottweilers and German seem to go together better than Golden Retrievers and Spanish, but I think your friend has the right idea.

    And Michelle, I can picture you toting this pup up and down, up and down. Your patience must have been as limitless as your energy. Happy Birthday to Maggie!

  20. Lisa


    When the Delaware state police went crazy for K9 dogs (a lid for every pot, a dog for every road unit) about 10 years ago, they decided the best thing to do was import a few hundred pre-trained dogs from Germany — all of whom spoke nothing but German. For months you couldn’t go ten feet in the courthouse without stumbling over someone in uniform mumbling clunky gutteral commands off a cheat sheet while waiting to go into court.

    Good luck with Cisco!

  21. Fran

    Ahh, today is a good day for dogs! Yesterday I had to take our 12 year old Malamute cross into the vet for dental surgery. He came through with flying colors but he really hurts. They said to give him pain pills every eight hours.

    Which is fine, except both Lillian and I work, and have serious commutes. So…?

    Fortunately (as many of you know) I work in a truly spectacular place, so Dante came to work with me and spent the day being the center of attention and getting lots of sympathetic skritches.

    Not a joke in sight there.

    So good for you, Louise! And welcome, Cisco! For all my years in New Mexico, my Spanish sucks, so just give him a good scratch behind the ears or a tummy rub for us, please. And a cookie for Dante, who can’t eat his.

  22. Jen

    Congrats on the new addition to your family!

    I can certainly relate to your language barrier, when I brought home my five-year-old mutt he only understood Korean (and he didn’t seem to recognize his nae at all, so we changed it). Have faith though, you CAN teach an old dog new words!


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