When it comes to talking to the animals and learning their languages old Dr. Dolittle has nothing on Lord Horatio. I regularly have long chats with Whimsy, my faithful hound, so much so that the rest of the family will happily testify I have been barking for years.
However, now the mighty shopping behemoth Amazon is predicting a proper pet translator on sale within less than a decade I felt it incumbent upon me to get ahead of the game and turn those woofs and whines into golden words as soon as possible.
I intended to build on the pioneering work being carried out at Northern Arizona University by Professor Con Slobodchikoff who has been studying the way prairie dogs – more cuddly squirrel than canine companion – communicate for the last 30 years.
There is already one device on the market called a Bow-Lingual which is more of an emotion analyser. Rather than telling you what your pet is actually saying it lets you know whether the woof means happiness, sadness, frustration, assertiveness, neediness, or ‘watch out!’
Determined to take things to the next stage I quickly commandeered the Dawdle Hall Ballroom and transformed it into a world-class language laboratory. Pride of place went to Lady Winifred’s large painting easel ‘liberated’ from the Studio while she was out playing Bridge.
Onto this I stacked some large pieces of used art paper, also requisitioned from my wife’s ample stocks. Luckily one side of each sheet was still blank. Next on the list was a supply of marker pens of various hues. I was sure she wouldn’t miss half a dozen or so. Switching my mobile telephonic device to record I was ready to make history.
Lured to the Ballroom by natural curiosity Whimsy quickly adjusted to his ‘guinea pig’ role with the help of a Boris Johnson squeaky dog toy – a particular favourite. Chewing away happily, his position at the head of the class was easily secured by attaching his lead to one of the legs of the easel. Black felt tip in hand I began sketching the outlines of familiar things.
We soon made significant progress. I quickly ascertained that one ‘woof’ meant a bone. Two ‘woofs’ a dog biscuit and a deep ‘growl’ plus a ‘woof’ signified a postman. Canine fluency seemed within reach when the Ballroom doors crashed open and Lady Winifred loomed large. On this occasion I didn’t require a Bow-Lingual to analyse the underlying emotion. The gauge was way past ‘watch-out.’ In fact it was right off the scale!
“What the hell do you think you are doing?” she thundered, “those paintings are due to go on show at the village fete next week!” Swiftly realising the way the wind was blowing Whimsy decided to exit stage left. Unfortunately he was still attached to the easel and I was in the line of fire. Along with the precious ‘works of art’ I went flying as he took off through the doors dragging the timber frame behind him.
The expression language laboratory took on a whole new meaning as I was given a vocabulary lesson that would have made my old seafaring chums blush. Her ladyship was incandescent with rage. Nothing was lost in translation and the need for hours of diplomacy quickly became apparent. The view from the dog house was clear my Dr Dolittle ambitions had been eclipsed by Lord do too much Dawdle!