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Cricket’s English Comprehension



Sometimes I think Cricket understands full sentences. Like the times when she starts barking at her Grandma, trying to boss her around.

First, of course, I say “No,” in a firm, loud voice. But Cricket ignores the command and keeps trying to get Grandma’s attention. So then I tell her, in my conversational tone, that she’s being rude to her grandma and it is not time to go out or have a snack and she can rest for now. And Cricket listens to me, and stops barking, and crawls under Grandma’s chair to go to sleep.

Cricket knows the important words, like: walk, poopie, grooming, bathtub, chicken treats, cheese, out, go, sit, no, and Cricket. When we are out walking and I say the word “water,” she looks to the bag that holds her Tupperware cup full of water. If she hears the word “breakfast,” she will lick her lips. One time, when we were outside, I said the word “foot,” and Cricket lifted her back foot and stared at it.

            She has selective hearing, like any other child. When she’s exhausted, she’s less sensitive to words like “toy” or even “walk.” The “G” words almost always get through to her, though. If I say “grooming,” she runs to the bathroom and climbs into the bathtub, which is where the grooming happens. She loves grooming because it’s her most reliable source for chicken treats. She would prefer to stand in the bathtub and be fed treats without having to get a comb through her hair, but the treats make anything bearable.

When she is over excited, she can’t really hear me over the noise in her own head, or the screeching she’s doing out loud. When I take the leash out, she jumps two feet in the air, over and over, like a Jack Russell, and if I try to tell her to sit, so I can attach the leash, she seems to be screeching “What? What?!” as if I’m speaking French.

I remember seeing a dog on TV who could identify each of her thirty toys by name. Her dad, a psych professor, would say “fish” and she would dig through a toy box and come back with the fish. Cricket knows that “toys” are in her toy box or scattered on the floor, but individual names for toys don’t seem to be strongly correlated for her. If I say “Fishy” and it’s the only toy she sees, she’ll bring it, but if her birthday cake or purple dinosaur is near by she might pick that up instead.

She is very smart, but she has no interest in making the most of her potential. She’s not a working dog or a people pleaser. I wish I could accept this about her, but some part of me still dreams of index cards and word drills and Cricket hearing the word “fish” and digging through her toy box to bring me a fish. Because that would at least make me feel smart.

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

6 responses »

  1. A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. I do believe that you should write more about this subject, it may not be a taboo subject but typically folks don’t speak about these issues. To the next! Kind regards!

  2. It’s interesting to think about a dog’s comprehension of words.
    Their understanding of actions shows intelligence, too. The typical depressed looks and actions that follow when they understand that they are being left at home alone…and often this idea seems to pop into their head from the earliest signs….Alert little creatures 🙂


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