In my case, this is usually carried out in tones that make clear the meaning of phrases such as ‘Gerrouttatheway!’ or “Gerroutfrumundermyfeetwillyaforchrissakes!!!” and ‘NO!!!’. Even ‘willyajustfuckoff!’ sometimes bears its fruit, though I’m loath to use such language in front of them in case they learn what it really means. These are dogs, you understand, classical pets.
Occasionally, I am forced to use more dulcet tones for such indications as ‘c’mere’ or simply ‘here!’. I find these elicit little more than a plaintive look of complete non-comprehension unless food is involved, which is when their enthusiasm is overwhelming and has very often resulted in the carefully prepared fare being messily overwhelmed onto the floor. They don’t seem to mind that and gobble it up just as greedily as though it were in a nice, clean stainless steel bowl.
When I had horses, in one of my previous lives, the language was pretty much limited to ‘Gerroffmyfoot’, though I sometimes added a ‘pleeeeze!’ for pain’s sake. A pat on the neck and a ‘Well done!’ whispered into a soft, furry ear was usually enough to convey that he or she had been a good boy or girl on that ride.
The language was quite a lot more vehement, however, the time my favourite mare took a corner too sharply and landed me in a large cactus plant. I took issue with her entire ancestry every time I yanked a needle out my backside, or someone else did. She stopped being my favourite for a while, but, being a forgiving person, she soon returned to my fold. We cantered instead of hell-fer-leather galloped past the cactus from thereon in.
I had a white rabbit once, which presented itself from within a magician’s top hat, much to my own awe and that of my chums helping me celebrate a young birthday, or rather, helping themselves freely to the squishy cake my mother didn’t bake.
The rabbit had nothing whatever to do with the fact that the magician slipped in the bathtub the next day, and died after cracking open his skull.
This cute animal (the rabbit, not the magician) didn’t need a lot of conversation because it was too busy gnawing at electrical cables, in front of which implements these were attached to my father spent much time scratching his head. It is one of the very few visual memories I have of him. My father, that is; the rabbit looked much like every other magician’s white-rabbit-popping-out-of-a-hat.
I’m not entirely familiar with the more unusual pets, particularly of the reptile sort. My son, aged about eight, had a pet python he was given after months of cajoling (read: being a pain in the arse) his mother about it. As usual, she succumbed just to get him off her back. On his back, however, lived the python.
Young though it might have been, the thing was of an impressive length, although I confess I never got round to stretching it out long enough to measure. In his eight year old way, the boy and the python would prance out into the street, wearing a beatific smile and a python round his neck. This elicited screams of terror from the neighbourhood, particularly from the women; the men were more stoical, but backed away as nonchalantly as their pride permitted nevertheless.
Be it understood that the neighbourhood was within a very rural, very small village in the mountains of Southern Spain. Most of the inhabitants don’t even say the word ‘snake’ in Spanish, using several euphemisms as protection and then only when absolutely necessary. It was a serpent, you understand, that seduced Eve into biting into the forbidden apple, and thus the epitome of evil and the cause of every man’s misfortune. My son had a very evil adolescence, undoubtedly as a direct result of his tempting the Devil with his pet.
The python died in ignominy inside a terrarium at a friend’s house when the boy and his mother moved to another neighbourhood and the friend neglected to give it water for too long. For my part, I admit I couldn’t help feeling sorry for it, even though my contact with it was limited to a timid, “He-ello…” when I allowed myself to pet it. He (he was a he, I think, but you can’t be sure) was a nice sort of chap and never did anybody any harm, unless you consider white mice to be somebodies and to be eaten as harm.
In fact, I’m not frightened of snakes, having manfully dealt with some of the world’s most poisonous varieties when being brought up (so to speak) in South America. At our holiday home in the foothills of the Andes, we were obliged to wear boots even in the sizzling heat of summer, and there was a stack of forked walking sticks tucked behind the main door. You wouldn’t go out without one.
Spiders, though, I don’t get on with at all since a German governess in whose charge I was placed one young summer, played a very cruel joke on me. I don’t mean to be in the least racist or anything, but there were a lot of Nazis around in South America in the 1950s. I still suspect this woman had been a prison guard at Auschwitz.
The joke consisted in having me haul wood to the stove (this was in the South American equivalent of the Outback) and piling it neatly underneath. She knew there would be large hairy spiders in the woodpile. And there were.
One of them managed to get on my arm one day and raced up my sleeve while I hopped about, screaming, tripping over the spilled wood, screaming. She stood by and laughed. I was seven. Spiders, and not just those great big hairy things popular as pets, scare the bejeesus out of me. The much smaller ones, however, I can fake manliness with and defeat with a slipper.
In any case, what would I want to say to a spider? I can’t even tell where its face is to see any gleam of comprehension.
I notice I haven’t mentioned cats. The main reason AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA (SI4C,,~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^m m m m m m m m m m m m m m m m being that my newly welcomed kitten is confused: she thinks she is a wrist cushion and lies on top of the keyboard purring. The above is only the result of her moving from left to right. Space adjustment. Apologies.
My conversations with her are limited to whispers of explanation that her purpose in life is more than to just lie there. But she’s young, she’s learning… And I believe in Santa Claus.
The kitten, named Velcro, is black. So is the chair I sit on to write, often resulting in squeals and hisses from my rear end when I sit on her. It is most alarming.
The original question was: do I talk to my animals? It should have been, do I communicate with them? That I don’t know. Judging by the results and the state of my blood pressure, I have good reason to think not.
(c) Alberto Bullrich 2015