A Pet’s Nonverbal Communication

“If we could talk to the animals, just imagine it …”

This is an excerpt from a song that appeared in the original Dr. Doolittle movie. What if, however, our pets are actually communicating with us but we’re just oblivious to what they are saying? This is a story that needs very little interpretation.

Mrs. Kim brought in her rather shy poi dog Rambo for his annual exam. Entering the room, I was greeted with a smile from Mrs. Kim — and a low, guttural growl from Rambo.

“Hello, Doc,” Mrs. Kim exclaimed. “It’s good to see you again. I know Rambo’s happy to be here.”

Glancing at Rambo’s lowered head peering out from under the chair Mrs. Kim was sitting on, I replied, “It’s good to see you, too, but I don’t think Rambo’s too excited about being here today.”

“Nonsense, Doc, that’s just his way of saying hi. He’s just shy. I also think he acts that way as a protective mechanism. If you remember, I rescued him several years ago. I have a feeling that his previous owner abused him.”

I slowly crouched down and extended a dog treat to my shy patient. This caused Rambo to slink farther back under the chair and once again emit a growl that in doggie language probably meant something like, “Don’t come any closer, I’m warning you.”

Seeing our interaction, Mrs. Kim gently pulled on Rambo’s leash so that he was now out in the open. He tried to back up but was blocked by Mrs. Kim’s legs, so with a disgruntled huff, Rambo just stayed put.

“There you go, now be a good boy and say hi to your doctor,” chimed Mrs. Kim. Again, I held out my hand with a treat, and this time the peace offering elicited an alternating series of barks and growls.

“Well, Mrs. Kim, try as I may, I don’t think Rambo likes me very much. Don’t worry, though, not all my patients like me. I mean, a visit to the veterinarian’s office is not always fun and games.”

“Don’t be silly. Rambo loves coming here, and he definitely likes his favorite veterinarian …”

As Mrs. Kim continued on, Rambo crept toward me in methodical fashion. I often can tell when a dog is about to attack me, and thankfully I didn’t see any indication that he was about to do so. What happened next, though, did shock me. Suddenly, in mid-sentence, Mrs. Kim shouted “Rambo, stop that right now!”

That’s when it hit me. The warm sensation told me that Rambo had relieved himself on my pants and shoes. Suddenly, I understood how fire hydrants around the world must feel.

“OK, I guess that ends the debate about how Rambo feels about me. Don’t you think?” I asked with a halfsmile on my face.

Reluctantly, Mrs. Kim nodded in agreement.

As I excused myself from the room to change my soiled pants and squishing socks, I affirmed my belief that pets do communicate with people. Even though Rambo didn’t utter a word, I knew exactly what he was saying: Pee on pants equals I don’t like you. What do you think?