I am so excited!  A segment of CBS Sunday Morning was about a speech pathologist who taught her dog to “speak”, using a device that I had wondered about 20 years ago, wishing it had existed when Banker was here.  Stella was taught to push buttons on this device for words.  Who better than a speech therapist to understand and implement such a device!

AND – she uses one of my favorite expressions, she didn’t want her dog to be “mindlessly obedient”.  I’ve been using this expression for 15-20 years, arguing (politely) with my farrier about horses, for example, that a horse should be able to think and that there are situations when a horse should be able to exercise its judgment without a demand impairing that choice.  He thought that was dangerous and that horses should *always* respond to human commands.  I’ve since been in a situation when I was very appreciative that my horse had the ability to use her judgment in a tight situation with confidence that I wouldn’t force her to do otherwise.  You have to tolerate some flexibility in their choices to engage them and sometimes you have to intervene (I had one who loved to buck, for example).  I have found the same to be true for Newfs.  I DO NOT WANT a dog to be mindlessly obedient.  They need to be able to think instead of automatically responding.  I believe this increases their trust and confidence in us, also.  Learning how to listen as well as how to command is the difference between building a relationship and sharing space in a disconnected way with an animal who looks at life differently from you.  WHY NOT LEARN A BIT ABOUT THEIR PERSPECTIVE??

Over the years, we’ve tried a few recorded toys (“Jade, get off the sofa!”) in humor, but as my education continues, I’ve found that I can understand most of their interests in communication, but it has been a slow process and hard to explain to those new to Newfs (or dogs), and my vocabulary of Newf communications is and will remain limited.  Some of their expressions are easily intuitive, others have required deciphering.  Some use vocal expression more than others.   There are some words they can’t say and don’t know how to express in ways for us to understand, but those probably wouldn’t be on a push-button board.  And there are perceptions that can’t be argued, like when I asked Banner if she thought I was being mean to her by not giving her all of the cookies at once.  Her answer actually hurt my feelings, which was of course, “Yes”.  But she does indicate that she understands on a more general basis that she needs to wait, when I ask about cookies or other things.  So, I try to explain in simple terms what may seem obvious to those who don’t want a cookie as much as she does that we need to wait in order to enjoy more treats later, and hope that she comprehends enough of what I said to overlook my offense.  At least, it lessens my feeling of guilt.  ; )  Fortunately they are very forgiving, anyway.  It gets a bit more challenging when they develop an allergy or possible allergy to something in what you are eating and they want a bite.  But life is an adventure, and learning about another living being is a wonderful part of the adventure.

Btw, when CBS Sunday Morning closed, the narrator discussed how individual his kids were and how much he loved them, and how he would respond to whether he had a favorite.  Then he described his dog.

This is a link to the segment on teaching Stella to speak:

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