I like that we can communicate with dogs. We can learn how dogs interact with each other and play along. No, I am not encouraging interspecies butt sniffing. Apart from the obvious reason, we poor bipeds aren’t the fine connoisseurs of butt scents that your average dachshund is. We can’t tell the subtle distinctions between the “I’m happy” stink and the “Prepare to die” stink.
But there are some modes of dog communication we can decipher. One of them is “Pounce,” a puppy game that every puppy knows innately. It is hard-wired into what passes in dogs for brains: a play instinct that teaches such crucial survival skills as Running at Warp Speed, Grinning Like an Idiot, and Falling Down. We cannot know what dogs call the game. I call it Pounce.
The Falling Down part of Pounce is due to Newton’s First Law of Motion: “A dog in motion continues in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.” (Slightly paraphrased.) Dogs are notoriously ignorant of the laws of physics, especially as puppies, and think that they can turn at sharp angles without regard for inertia.The result is a set of four legs running in a new direction while the rest of the body continues on the old one. Let’s just say it’s less graceful than “Swan Lake,” but much funnier.
Dogs must be in the right mood to play Pounce. When they are puppies, that mood is called “awake.” The puppy or human initiates the game by assuming the Pounce Position: forearms flat on the ground, rear end up in the air. The player then slaps the ground with the forearms and loudly exclaims, “Pounce!” or “Bark!” depending on the speaker’s native tongue. The other player performs the same actions, and the game’s afoot, or apaw, as the case may be.
Once Pounce starts, it mainly consists of the puppy tearing through the house or yard, taking zigzagging turns, and always coming back to and then zipping past the human, the dog’s eyes wide open and frenzied, its foot-long tongue lolling to one side and dripping with drool.
In our 42 years of wedded bliss Susy and I have owned many dogs. We lost one to old age a few months ago, and recently adopted a 6-month-old puppy from Bay Area German Shepherd Rescue. You can’t replace a dog like a light bulb, or completely fill the empty place in your heart, but you can make room in there for a new dog, with different personality quirks. Opal is the newest in our line of gemstones and precious metals: Pearl, Ruby, Sapphire, Silver, etc., and despite having a hard start to her life, she is a calm puppy.
Until someone gets on the floor and says, “Pounce!”
firstname.lastname@example.org carefully notes that Susy is now part owner of this newspaper. On Twitter: @louiecastoria.