Apr 15, 2010

Dr. Doolittle

Being a mother of teenage boys, I wonder at times when I’ll experience a quiet calm again. If we aren’t running 100 mph to some event or function, I am trying to explain why we aren’t going to drive to Wisconsin to buy a used car that he found on eBay which was “just what I have been wanting!” Or praying desperately they will just simply do the chore without a fight. Seriously, do I have to use “approach and retreat” tactics with kids? I know I speak English and I know my boys speak English, but why do we have such a hard time understanding each other?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had that “quiet calm” around animals; a way of understanding with few words. I'm not bragging. It is just the way it is. I’ve always had a dog and I’ve never really had to communicate with them verbally to understand what they were thinking or me to them. My Springer Spaniel, Maddie, is aging. She can no longer hear and cries when I get out of her site. I use different body language when I leave for work than if I’m going outside for a few moments. And she knows the difference. I also know when she needs an extra boost to get up the stairs and we have developed a sign language of sorts for meeting our other communication needs.

Bo, the St. Bernard, is John’s “buddy”. He feeds him dog food and from his plate. He calls him, hugs him, and roughs him up. But when evening comes, it is my feet he lays next to. In the winter, Ritz sleeps in Case’s room behind closed doors. But I’m the one he watches and follows until time for bed. And I only have to ask once and they will both pile on my bed. Ritz knows by watching me when we are just going to the barn and when we are going riding. His whole body language changes when he knows we are heading down the road.

I’ve never been a cat person really, but the cats have all claimed me. Pretty Kitty, who was wild as could be as a young cat, became a house cat over the winter. He is very mindful to always use the litter box and I really think out of graciousness for being brought in, keeps a respectful distance from me but is always nearby. Mickey, the one-eyed kitty, was rescued by the boys, but I’m his human. He rides on my shoulders in the barn and has even jumped into the saddle with me once while I was riding. And in the house at night, he cuddles next to my neck. And Tom, the oldest of them all, will only come out of the shed and into the house if I go to fetch him.

The two roosters and Henny Penny see me heading to the barn and they follow. Once I made of mistake of trying to pet one of the roosters. He was right next to me… so close. I didn’t think about whether it would be a good idea or not – just reached for him & boy-howdy, scared him – scared me! I am pretty sure we both said “WTF?” And now we are both on-guard. He is still nearby, but I can tell he is checking me out. Worried about what I will try next.

And the dumb cows? Only one was a bottle calf and tame, but they all let me touch their heads. Even the bull.

The horses; my glorious little herd. When out in the yard, I can feel their eyes on me. I can sense their impatience right now being held up in the drylot when spring grass is so green and visible. I know who to catch first and the order always changes. Pick the wrong one and they may all decide to play the catch me if you can game. And I know when the game is over. I know how to cinch up each horse – all of them different and with varying tolerances. I know that Blue loved his winter blanket this past year. I know that Windy knows she is special. And at any given time, I know at least one of them will lock the bottom of their jowls over my shoulder in a makeshift hug while I breathe in their scents.

All of this communication - this talk with the animals - is done for the most part, without words. Why, when I have the entire dictionary at my disposal is it so hard to find those words to reach that level of understanding with my children. I can formulate the right sentence and say all the right words. I can insert gestures – good and bad - but still can’t reach the same quiet understanding as I do with my animals. As I reach the end of this post, I wonder if perhaps, I should try using fewer words.

(Too tired to proofread tonight... it is what it is....)


  1. Great post and so true! Sometimes I think I should talk to my animals more but I feel like they already know what I am thinking. Always, when I am around my animals, I think of the line from Jesus Christ Superstar, "There is too little of me." My dog, Buddha, waits in the window until I drive up and my cat, Terra has claimed me and often won't let him near.
    Outside, Annie has claimed me and won't let Nadia near.
    Sometimes I feel overwhelmed at the responsibility of caring for them and the undeserved adoration they give me, but always, I am thankful that I have some-bodies who care about me. It's good to love and be loved.

  2. I don't know what it is with teenagers either. Mine weren't bad kids they just basically ignored me or anything I said. I was yessed to death and then they did what they wanted anyway. Sometimes with dire consequences because I really didn't put up with a lot of nonsense. What's that old saying? Dealing with teenagers is like trying to nail jello to a wall (something like that). I always liked the one saying that went something like ' leave home now while you are still young enough to KNOW everything'. Hang in there it will get better.

    I hear what you're saying about the animals. I also have a quiet communication with all the ones I come in contact with, (except the snakes) and we just seem to know what each is thinking or needs.

  3. I know what you mean about "too little of me", Val. I feel that way, too. With the dogs, they love us so unconditionally.

    It sounds like your kids were a lot like mine are, GHM. I don't think I'm easy, but I'm not particularly tough either. I'm not a good disciplinarian so I don't like to set them up to fail because I don't want to work that hard. But evidently they want to work even less which makes me have to work harder on them! Such a circle. I'm told I'll miss it when there gone. Right now I'll pay to miss it! LOL!

  4. I've got the same "connection" with all of our animals. Even the bottle calf would seek me out, ignoring my husband with the bottle!!! The hunting dog now lays in the barn while I clean stalls, and my horses only take to him when they're hungry and I'm not around! :)

    Teenage Girls are a whole other species, and I gave up on communicating with them long ago!

  5. It has nothing to do with you. It's just the sheer nature of being a teenager. Their hormones are all out of whack, they're pretty sure they know it all and that you're there to stop them from growing up, even if you aren't.

    Someone once told me it was a natural occurence. Mother Nature's way of making their departure from home less painful. By the time a couple of mine left, I was convinced she was right. Even though they were good kids, I was relieved to see them gone. I love having them back to visit but I wouldn't want them to move back in. LOL

  6. Animals are simple while humans are complicated. We should try to be more like animals and simplify our lives.

    So far my 13 year old twins aren't acting like typical teenagers yet. And I hope that doesn't change. I think homeschooling will help in that regard because they aren't affected by public school peer pressures and they, so far, like to be with me and hang out with their old Mom. lol!

    Hang in there. You've got great kids :)


  7. I know exactly what you mean. I'm much better with animals than people. I should have gone for the vet tech degree I wanted. I stink as a trainer of people, which is what I ended up doing for a living.


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