Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Communication vs Jack Russell Terriers (Issue #149)

I have a way with animals. You might say I’m an animal lover. More precisely perhaps, I like to think of myself as an animal understanderer. It’s an ability that can be learned but the process doesn’t happen overnight. Most of you will recall I’m a disciple of Yogi Berra and one of his most important teachings is: "You can observe a lot just by watching."

As I do with people, I watch animals closely and try to discern from their behaviour what they’re thinking - what their likes and dislikes are. Sometimes I’m probably off base, other times I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on in their wee brains.

Someone less charitable than I might suggest that it takes a wee brain to know another wee brain. That would be an amusing thing to suggest all right. If they suggested it to me I’d pee on their leg.

I’m able to establish a rapport with most non-hostile creatures - from kittens to that nice lady at the door who frets about my eternal salvation. But I have to confess to having a wee bit of difficulty with Benny, the Jack Russell terrier pup I inherited.

I’ve had a few dogs in my life. Many of you will recall previous columns about my dearly-departed Gryphon, the hunka-hunka-burnin’-love Rottweiler. Most of my family and friends have dogs. I get along with them okay. Even my sister Theresa’s dumb-as-a-post Sheepdog.

But none of those dogs was a JRT. Therefore, none have prepared me for being a JRT caretaker.

For instance, do you know what the animal in the photo below is doing?

It’s called “pronking.” They jump WAY up in the air and sproing off in a new direction. It helps them escape from leopards but sometimes it seems they do it just for fun. I knew antelopes pronked because I was an avid watcher of National Geographic and Wild Kingdom.

Now I know that Jack Russell terriers do it too. They do it pretty much all the time they’re not asleep. Which is pretty much all the time.

I’m no Dr. Dolittle but I do talk with animals. I’m a firm believer that, like with foreigners, if you speak clearly and loudly, you will be understood. It just takes a little repetition, a little time, a little patience.

Benny loves going for walks. All dogs do of course. When Benny sees me put on my shoes he starts quivering and barking and running around in circles and biting my laces in order to help me along.

However, he’s holding back most of his energy because I have not yet got the leash in my hand.

We keep the leash at the top of a short set of four steps. Benny races to the top step and waits until I have the leash in my hand. Sometimes he helps by holding it for me in his teeth and not letting go. Eventually though, I have control of it.

Once he sees that I do, he proceeds to pronk.

About every second or third pronk, he misses the top step and tumbles to the bottom. No matter. He just sproings back to the top and pronks feverishly while I make futile attempts to snap the leash onto the tiny clip on his tiny collar while he’s airborne.

I say: “Sit Benny.”

He misunderstands. He’s pretty sure I said, “Jump higher” and obliges.

“For Gawd’s sakes Benny! Sit still!”

“Gotcha. Higher and faster!”

It becomes a ballet of sorts: Pronk. Swipe with the leash. Pronk. Swipe. Tumble. Sproing! Pronk. Swipe. Repeat. Tumble. Sproing!

I’d tell you about the walks themselves but I think I’ve cried enough for one day.

I confess to being a tad perplexed by this failure to communicate. In most other respects he seems to be a pretty smart dog. He just has trouble understanding me. JRTs were first bred in England which could explain it.

I need to work on my accent and then talk to him clearly and loudly. He’ll eventually get it.

Because I have a way with animals.


ZenJen~ said...

Such goofballs! I haven't been quick enough to get a pic of Ziggy jumping to yank branches of the bushes so the birds will fly up and out. He spends entire afternoons chasing scared robins.
Great post!
- Jen

Nita said...

Again, you make me laugh. I need to find someone with a JRT so I can watch them. Thanks to your vivid, detail description, I'm pretty sure I don't need to own one. My collie will be just fine thank you.

Lois Karlin said...

Thanks for the laugh. I recommend a LARGE ring and a LARGE clip to snag it. Either that or a fence around the yard.

Hilary said...

That was sooo classic Benny. That pup has built in pogo sticks. When will you bring him around for another visit? I asking on behalf of the cats...

Lori A. Basiewicz said...

I had to forward the column this week, Frank. I was sitting in my office, reading it after class, and started laughing so loud that my officemates insisted on knowing what I was up to.

Frank Baron said...

Jen, that sounds like a JRT all right. If you do get a pic of that one day, I'd love to see it. :)

Nita, are you SURE you don't need one? It could keep your collie company. I could maybe give you a deal on a slightly-used one.... ;)

Thanks for the tip Lois. I just might try that. :)

Hilary, if your cats saw him again in 20 years it would be too soon for them.

Let's say - a couple of weeks or so. ;)

Lori, you made my day. Thanks. :)

Moby Dick said...

JRT's are the best dogs that I have ever had. The tone of your voice is very important. Love, kindness, and compassion will bring the JRT running to you from anywhere. JRT's are very affectionate and they actually slow down for petting.

Mine also loves squeeky toys, playing catch, and those little rawhide chew bones. the Dollar Stores have all that at a dollar, so an endless supply of fun keeps my dog happy and entertained!! A JRT is your connection to the soul of an eternal child, always happy and full of energy.

Moby Dick said...

BTW, you mentioned a while back that you wanted to lose a couple of pounds? Try riding bike with your JRT!! As Chevy Chase said in Caddyshack (Be The Ball): Be The JRT!!

Not to bring it down, but by coincidence I was visiting youtube last night and looking up JRT videos and found one by National Geographic about a tribe in Benig? that clubs their JRTs to death as a rite of passage to adult-hood. Then they cut up the dog and make a communal stew and everyone in the tribe eats a piece.

What a weird world we live in...

Frank Baron said...

Thanks for the tips Spidey. I'm all in favour of what might amuse him while I try to work. I mean, things aside from toilet paper, kleenex, socks, shoes and chair stuffing.

As to the bike riding...I don't think so. Bikes and I don't get along very well. I walk with him for about 45 minutes a day and the backyard is fenced so he can romp around back there too. At least when he DOES conk out for the night, he stays conked for a goodly while.

I suspect that stew would be pretty stringy....

Crabby McSlacker said...

Pronking--It's my new favorite word!

It sounds so dirty but it isn't at all.

Unfortunately, my cat doesn't pronk, she just sleeps, so it'll be tough to work into many conversations. But I certainly intend to try.

Anne C. Watkins said...

OwOwOw! I laughed so hard I hurt. What a great story!

You know what the problem is? It's Benny's people understanderer skills. Work on that a bit and see if things don't improve. You're welcome. :D

Oh, and beagles have the same problem, but with about 30 more pounds of force. lol

Frank Baron said...

Crabby. If Benny snuck up on your cat and did his usual manic "let's play!" barking routine - your cat would probably pronk. :)

Anne, I suspect you're right. I'll work on it. And glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me know. :)

Dawno said...

This sounds like a hit YouTube clip just waiting to happen. Get out the video cam!!

Frank Baron said...

That's all I need Dawno. A JRT with a Hollywood attitude. ;)

Clare2e said...

JRTs make Chihuahuas look like coma patients.

Cath said...

I remember a farmer-friend of ours demonstrating how tenacious Jack Russells can be by tempting one with a stick, waiting until it took hold, then lifting the stick - with JRT attached - to shoulder height. Never once did the dog let go.

They're lively dogs indeed. Good luck!

mogie222 said...

My mother-in-law had a wire haired Jack Russel named Sydney Cole. Sydney Cole was adorable, and maintained some strong instincts left over from when the breed was developed. Namely, ratting. If you took Sydney on a walk, you had to stop at every sewer grate so he could sniff and hunt for vermin.

And the son-of-a-gun could jump! He suffered from glaucoma and a neurological conditional that caused him to go into a vicious attack mode for no reason. Anyway, I was one of the lucky unscathed ones, but one day it was my job to go let Sydney out. I stood at the door. Syd heard me, and then started bouncing so high he appeared in the upper half of the door's window. I knew it was my day to be marked. I slowwwly opened the door, and BAM, he was attached to my ankle. I knew it was coming.

Sydney will go down as the FINEST canine kisser EVER. That dog could give smoochies all day long.

Overall verdict, very sweet, as cute a dog as possible, but very troubled.

Anonymous said...

sigh...understanderer. I love that word.


Hilary said...

Benny is indeed a clever puppy. He's even learned how to hit the re-dial button. I know this because I just got a pronk phone call.

templatetesting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank Baron said...

Clare, I don't know any chihuahua's but your post rings with Truth. Call me a believer. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Cath, that doesn't surprise me at all. I had a terrier who did the same thing. We could swing him around. (And did....)

Ab, I recall reading about another semi-psychotic JRT. I hope we can keep this one sane. Sane-ish....

Glad you like twizzle - feel free to borrow it. Thanks for the visit. :)

Hilary, you stayed up all night coming up with that one didn't you? ;)

Kappa no He said...

Oh yes, pronunciation is very important. My beagle (Cha Cha Maru) knows all the important English words, walk, sit, youbettergit! Of course walk is met with much dancing and excitement.

Then one day I was asking my son about that day's homework. Old Cha's ears perked and he began to dance. Hmmm..."homework?" More dancing. Oh my gosh, our dog is a genius! He likes homework! Or the fact that 'work' sounds a whole lot like "walk'. It took me a week to figure that one out.

I'm a slow understanderer.


Frank Baron said...

Terrie, I have a hunch your understanderering is pretty well advanced. :)

Bernita said...

"If they suggested it to me I’d pee on their leg."
You know, Frank, some people deserve that response!
Sometimes I think it's a pity it's not allowed.

Frank Baron said...

Allowed, shmallowed Bernita. If someone's being a bitch.... ;)

Stace said...

Gosh, that takes me back. I used to have a Jack Russel, he sure was a character. Does Benny do that little back-of-the-throat "grrrrrrrr" thing if you touch him when he's sleeping? Frankly I didn't like my JRT very much. I was fairly young, and I'd wanted "my own dog" for years, and I'd really anticipated getting a nice big dog like a labrador or a german shephard (my brother's dog was a labrador, so this seemed reasonable to me). And then my parents got me this useless little obnoxious ball on legs! We called him Brutus. He used to grab on to the saggy bits around the labrador's neck and mouth, and she'd drag him along without seeming to notice the extra weight. She could also fit his entire head into her mouth. Fun days!

Frank Baron said...

Stace, I'll let you know about that "grrrrrr" thing when he falls asleep. He's bound to one of these days, right?


Bernita said...

Giving me a yellow leg, Frank?
I didn't intend to sound that way. I really liked your post.

Frank Baron said...

Not to worry Bernita. For some dumb reason I thought "leitmotif" was analagous to "raison d'etre" - which would have nearly made sense. ;)

That'll learn me to check dictionary.com before using high falutin' words.

Moby Dick said...

raison de etre? Is that edible? The French have made some great contributions to society. French fries, french kissing, and the art of surrender.

On the other hand, they invented Speedos for guys, and that pretty much negates the rest.

dmmgmfm said...

One of my cats pronks, although I didn't know the exact term for it until now. Thanks for providing it. I probably should watch more Discovery Channel, but the fur kids prefer MTV. Go figure...

Romeo Morningwood said...

Have you been channeling Barbara Woodhouse?

I remember Gene Hackman telling Denzel in Crimson Tide that Jack Russells were the smartest dogs in the world. He also talked about how they trained
Lipizzan stallions with electric prods up the wazoo.

I enjoyed the pronging explanation. I'll give it a whirl tomorrow.

Frank Baron said...

Spidey, one of my most effective threats over the years has been: "Careful. Or I'll put on my Speedo."

Laurie, I think I have a fair idea of how old your kids are. ;)

homo, I believe Gene Hackman. They're smart AND stubborn.

Thanks for dropping by.

Paprikapink said...

Wow, Frank. That's a lotta comments. It's cuz you funny. Don't let Benny hog all the limelight, cuz he'll try. Has anyone advised "Clicker-Training" yet? I used it with my Jack Russell (who we had to re-home because he wanted to bite my daughter's face off he loved me so much, isn't that cute?!) and we both enjoyed it. Clicker training, I think, works great and if you do it it will be funny too.



Frank Baron said...

Hi Ellen. I'll check into that. I realize how headstrong these pooches can be and that good training is going to be a must.