tagRomanceThe Dog Talker Ch. 01

The Dog Talker Ch. 01


This is a fantasy on so many levels. Next time you are out shopping, think about your local adoptive animal shelter or Humane Society. Pick up an extra ten pack of paper towels and drop 'em off. Say hi to the animals; volunteer. Consider adopting.

The Doberman Pinscher is an elegant, muscular and very powerful dog with a well proportioned chest, a short back and a lean, muscular neck. Its hard, short-haired, close-fitting coat comes in black, black & tan, blue-gray, red, fawn and white. Its teeth are strong and close in a scissors bite. Eyes are dark with a lively, intelligent expression. Its legs are perfectly straight. The Doberman's gait must be elastic, elegant, and cover a lot of ground.

Bred for a century to be an outstanding guard dog, the Doberman Pinscher is intense and energetic with tremendous strength and stamina. Versatile and highly intelligent Dobes are very easy to train. They are determined, fearless and assertive, but not vicious. They are noble, loyal and affectionate with the family and like to be physically close to the family members. Devoted and watchful, this is a very people oriented breed.

The Doberman needs an owner who is willing and able to discipline the dog without being afraid of him. All family members should learn to handle the dog properly, as Dobermans can be pushy if allowed to have their own way too much. The Doberman is naturally protective and does not need additional "protection" training to be a fine guard dog. He should be thoroughly socialized when young to prevent over-protectiveness. Mental stimulation is important for a truly well-adjusted and happy Dobe.

The Doberman must be consistently and thoroughly trained to be a good pet. Training should be through positive reinforcement. Dobes can be good family dogs if of good temperament, well trained and raised with children from early puppyhood. They are at their best with experienced owners. Female Dobes are a little more stubborn to train than the male. The Doberman has been bred to work with man, and he needs this interaction often. They must be with the family and not abandoned to the backyard.


"Mary, go ahead and schedule Shadow to be put down as soon as I get back from lunch."

"He's such a handsome dog! A perfect specimen of the breed, albeit a bit larger than the show dog standard. Do we have any history on him?"

"He's just a year old. We know that from neighbors and also were able to track him back to a breeder. The Animal Abuse Investigator was called out by the neighbors. The dog spent much of his young life tied up with a six foot rope to a stake in the ground in a small backyard often without food or water—until they just moved away and abandoned him. There's no report that he's ever bitten anyone but he comes across as extremely vicious. The investigator chose to dart him. Thirty inches and close to 100 pounds of snarling Dobie is enough to set anyone back on his heels. I think we all hoped he'd come around but to date no one has even been able to get close to him. He seems remarkably healthy considering how poorly he was treated---not that I've gotten close enough to do a thorough exam."

"I always hate this part of the job. It's one thing when the dog is terribly sick, deformed or horribly injured but..."

"Mary, this is a non profit animal shelter. We take in dogs from the dog wardens, abuse reports and surrenders. In short order we try to make them safe, adoptable pets. We're always short on kennels and we never employ euthanasia for space. There aren't really any bad dogs---just bad dog owners. Properly cared for, Dobermans are among the most gentle, sweet, loyal dogs on the planet. Abused, neglected, untrained and denied human family involvement and they go sour. They are exceptionally strong and to most people---scary. I don't like it any more than you do."

"No one has been able to get close to him; our former contract dog trainer wouldn't even look at him."

"Speaking of dog trainers, we have a new one coming in. I thought he was coming tomorrow but he contacted me last night and said he had a work conflict and it had to be today. Margie seems fine with Jack Russell Terriers and Beagles but she never seemed interested---nor competent---to handle the bigger dogs. I got a call from a former vet school classmate of mine about a guy he had worked with who recently moved to our area. My classmate raves about him. I'd really like to be here to meet him but duty calls and one of my duties is shaking down the Rotarians for money to keep this shelter open. He's coming in at noon---be a doll and show him around?"

"No problem. I've got a couple of calls to make so I'll be here over lunch."


"Welcome to the shelter. How can I help you? I'm Jan the---what is my title again? Administrative supervisor? Chief cook and bottle washer? Something like that."

"Pleased to meet you Jan. I'm a dog trainer. Well, it's not what I do for a living, but your vet---Dr. Mason---went to school with a friend of mine and, ah, I'm new to the area and Dr. Mason and I have been exchanging emails and I promised to come by today. I'm sorry. Eric. Eric Wilder."

"Dr. Mason left a note, Mr. Wilder. Our vet tech---Mary---was going to show you around. Unfortunately she is on the phone with a very generous board member and sponsor who can be somewhat long winded. Then another sponsor needs to be called back. I need to watch the phones until my daughter gets back from lunch. The dog and cat adoption areas are through that door to your right. The clinic and pre-adoption area is to your left. If you don't mind starting out on your own, I'll catch up with you in a few minutes."

"Not a problem---please call me Eric."

The cacophony of barks and howls always commenced as soon as the dogs nearest the viewing window detected a new visitor. To Jan's surprise, it stopped almost instantly. Fifteen minutes later, she caught up with Eric Wilder as he was completing his rounds of the twenty-six individual kennels. All of the dogs were sitting or lying quietly at the front of their kennels. To her surprise she noted that Eric did not appear to have any treats in his hands.

"Did you get a chance to see the cats?"

"Jan, I'm not much of a cat person, in fact most cats make me sneeze and I forgot to take an antihistamine."

"What sort of training technique do you use, Eric? We've always tended toward positive reinforcement rather than punishment or negative stimuli here. No choke collars, shock units or prongs and whatnot."

"I suppose I've used a variety of techniques over the years, although I'm not much for fads. Positive, food based training is certainly appropriate in the shelter environment. It's pretty easy to train handlers and volunteers and get some engagement from the pups fairly quickly. One of my dogs will do anything you want her to do on a three chain Martingale but in her case the forty dollar German surgical grade stainless is really her 'bling' and she gets very annoyed when she isn't wearing it. Then again she is only leashed because the law requires it. She listens very well. I have another that hates regular collars and is a perfect gentleman on a neck/nose collar. Dogs are fascinating. Some like the female I mentioned are easy to communicate with. Others, less so."

"The Dog Whisperer?"

"A little too faddish for me. Good marketing, though---he sells a lot of books. He doesn't do much with puppies and I think 'whisperer' is just marketing hype since I don't think he really can talk to dogs."

"Can you talk to dogs, Eric?" Jan asked feeling almost foolish doing so.

"Some of them---but not all of them. It's not really talking. I know this probably sounds a little crazy but it's more mental telepathy; Barbara Woodhouse spoke of it often. Sadly, it only seems to work with a small percentage of them and it's more images than complete thoughts. Dogs certainly communicate with each other but even that communication is very limited among most canines. Most dogs have very simple minds. Then again, a small handful are astoundingly bright."

"Well you certainly seem to have calmed this group down---any talkers here?"

"The big slobbering Rotty on the other side is quite the talker. Right now he's pretty much the anointed leader in here. Once you engage him the other dogs follow his lead. There is probably nothing he couldn't do---be trained to do, I mean. My complements to your staff and volunteers. The kennels are spotless and all the pups have clear water and fresh food. All of these dogs have good traits and personalities and should have no problem finding a happy home."

"Well, over in pre-adoption we have dogs that aren't ready for the public. Some are recovering from surgery or illness but a few are just not ready for prime time."

"Well, I guess that latter group is what I'm here for. Lead the way, Jan."

In fact all but one of the dogs in pre-adoption that day were there recovering from surgery or illness. Only one was there because he was not considered safe. In fact, the determination had been made that Shadow would never be safe in human company.

"What's this handsome lad's prognosis, Jan?"

"Not very positive, I'm sorry to say. I believe Dr. Mason will be putting him down after lunch. Oh, damn! The phones are ringing off the hook—always do over lunch."

"Mind if I stay here and chat with Shadow?"

"Be my guest but I would urge you to do so from this side of the cage."

"Of course."

He knew the signs...he'd picked up the fleeting thoughts from the younger woman. His days---hours and minutes---were numbered. So much pain...his entire head throbbed with pain...had for so long...as long as he could remember. Death...wasn't afraid to die...life had been short and certainly not sweet...the end of the pain. This one...a new face...smiling at him...give him a good snarl...go down fighting...not trying to talk to him, that was a relief. Clear his head enough to reach out with his mind to see if this human had any thoughts worth gleaning. Something...what? Something there...

"You're so very beautiful! So noble and majestic! I apologize to you for the life you have been provided by uncaring and ignorant people. I'm reaching out to you, my young friend with every fiber of my being...are you one of them? Are you a talker? Talk to me Shadow or whatever you're name is! Tell me of your pain...help me understand...please...help me understand...time is of the essence."

What the hell? His mouth is closed...his lips aren't moving...not that I'd understand that gibberish anyway...I must be dreaming...hallucinating. People can't communicate with us---hell, most of us can't communicate with us. He wants me to reach out to him...why? What's the use? It'll all be over soon enough.

"It doesn't have to be over---doesn't have to end...your life, I mean. I believe you were put on this earth for a purpose. Talk to me Shadow...make me understand."

Pain...so much pain...makes me crazy...the pain makes me so crazy.

"Where's the pain, Shadow? Tell me where the pain is."

My head...my head is throbbing...never stops...what's he doing...opening the cage...maybe I could surprise him...run over him...escape...but no escape from the pain...

"May I touch you, Shadow? If I touch you and it hurts just tell me and I'll stop. Maybe we can find out what's causing the pain together."

It's been so long since I let one of them touch me...strong but gentle hands...feels good...I've missed it for so long...ouch! What the hell was that?

"There! I felt your pain. On the right side of your jaw way back. I need to put my fingers in your mouth now, Shadow...need to feel around back there...find out what's happening. A whimper...you didn't even have to think it...it's right there, isn't it? The center of your pain...right there."

You're damn right!

"Okay, I know this is uncomfortable but there is something jammed in their between your gum and your back molar that doesn't fit any dog anatomy I know. There is a major nerve bundle back there and something is pressing against it. I can feel it...can't tell what it is...a shard of bone? A tooth that shouldn't be there? A stick? What?"

She's coming---the younger woman. She's coming!

"Stay calm, big fellow...let me handle this...you stay calm!"

"What in the world are you doing in there? That dog is scheduled for euthanasia in less than hour. No one is supposed to be in there with him!"

"You must be Mary the vet tech; I'm Eric---the dog trainer. Mary, did Shadow get a full oral exam when he was brought into the shelter?"

"We couldn't even do a decent cursory exam on him. Since the abuse investigator hit him with the tranquilizer dart we didn't want to risk doing again so soon---not to mention the fact that we have a very limited supply of those very expensive darts. No parasites...no obvious injuries or deformities."

"Just as I thought. Okay, Mary, I need a portable exam light and a pair of eight inch forceps---preferably a pair that still has a decent bite left on its jaws. There's something back here---my gut says it's a long shard of bone which is pressing on a nerve junction. I can feel it. When I move it ever so slightly it sends a searing pain all through his head."

"Are you a veterinarian? I can get you a syringe and we can try to sedate him. You're closer than anyone else had ever been to him."

"Mary, he knows he's scheduled to die shortly. I believe a syringe at this stage would scare him beyond belief. Just get me a light and the forceps."

"He knows? Okay."

"She's going to have to come in here with us, Shadow. I need her to hold the light. And then I'm going to have to force your jaw open farther than is comfortable---while she holds your lip back---and see if I can get to whatever is back there."

Will it hurt? I'm scared Eric...very scared.

"Yes, but only for a few seconds---if you hold very still. If I can get a grip on it and pull it out. I believe---I don't know---but I believe your throbbing headache will be gone---or at least a hell of a lot better. Do you trust me?"

Yes. I'll be brave. Thank you for your honesty.

"I know you will....you're a very brave boy," he thought and said out loud as he held the big pup's head in his arms. Mary returned with the requested implements certain that the man in the cage with Shadow could not possibly be carrying on a conversation with the big pup.

"I need you to hold the light, Mary---and pull his lip back. I should be able to hold his jaw open and work the forceps. I promise you he won't hurt you. He's not a bad dog---he's just in horrible pain and it has made him a little crazy. Hurry now before he loses his nerve---or I lose mine."

I can feel it...it hurts...really hurts...it's moving...more pain...sharp pain...and...and...oh! The pain is gone...it's gone...you did it...it's gone! Thank you...oh, God thank you!

"You're not done yet, big fellow. There's an infection in there---and abscess---I can smell it. A shot of antibiotic will knock it out in twenty-four hours and then you'll have to take some pills for a couple of weeks."

Last time I checked I don't have a couple of weeks...not even a couple of hours.

"Nonsense, Shadow! You are not going to die today."

Eric said the words out loud as he thought them, much to Mary' surprise. He turned to her and spoke.

"Abscess...needs a shot of antibiotic...can you administer it?" She was back in a matter of seconds with the syringe.

How do I know that's not the final needle?

"Now you're being a big baby, Shadow. I certainly didn't risk you chewing off my fingers so that I could trick you and put you down. How do you feel?"

Better...much better!

"It'll feel even better this time tomorrow and every day which follows. Now be a good boy and let the pretty lady give you a shot."


"Mary, do you have any NSAID (Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug---Aspirin or Ibuprofen in human pharmacology; while aspirin is safe for canines, ibuprofen can be fatal) we can give him for the inflammation and pain?"

"That's not really something we can afford to keep here."

"Okay...well, I have some Deramaxx™ in the car but I'd be breaking the law giving it to him without a prescription."

"Dr. Mason wouldn't have any problem writing one after the fact. She's pretty easy to get along with in that regard. What are you doing with Deramaxx™ in your car?"

"I'm not a vet or doctor. I work for a drug distribution company. My company distributes both human and animal drugs and I collect samples and soon to be outdated vet drugs to donate to charity vets and shelters. Has Shadow been outside today?"

"Shadow hasn't been outside since he got here five days ago. No one could get a leash on him."

"Mind if I take him with me to the car?"

"I suppose not...you seem---he seems---to be very comfortable with you. I'll get you a leash."

"I think he'll be fine without one. He's not going to run away or do anything he shouldn't. He trusted me to take his pain away. The least I can do is trust him. Come on big fella!"

What's going to happen now?

"You're going to get better. You're going to apologize to everyone you snarled at. You're going to come stay with me for a while and then..."

And then?

"Do you know what a service dog is? It's a dog who takes care of a human being who has been badly hurt and can't always take care of themselves. There's a special organization---Vet Dogs. Very special, very bright dogs are trained to help American military veterans who have been wounded in combat to live a more normal life. It is the highest calling---the most noble service---any dog can be chosen to provide. Your breeding is perfect---and we both know you are very, very bright. Would you like that? Would you like to be a life companion for a special human being who in turn will never let any harm come to you and will love you...like a brother?"

I'd like that very much. To have a purpose...meaning...a reason to live...serving for someone who has served and sacrificed. But I'll miss you...miss talking to you. Nice car, by the way.

"Thank you. Big fella, this particular veteran---a Marine---is very special. He lost his legs below the knees rescuing his combat dog from an Improvised Explosive Device. He lives here in the city...it's part of why I moved here...he's my brother. He has his own place but we're very close so we'll see each other often and have lots of opportunity to chat."

Your brother...is he like you...is he a dog talker?

"He is but not to the degree I am. He's never been around a dog like you 24/7. He doesn't completely believe it but he knows in his heart that he heard those words in his head---a plea for help---from his combat dog just before the bomb went off. But he has it---I'm convinced it runs in the family."

The younger woman...the pretty one...she was very brave! I was not very nice to her...I want to apologize to her first...how do I do that?

"You're a dog, Shadow! You have it much easier than we humans do. In your case, just go over to her when she invites you to, sit down in front of her, put your head in her lap and let her pet you. When she does, lick her hand---just a little, no slobbering."

Eric and Shadow found Mary sitting at her desk with the chair facing away from her work area looking somewhat bemused.

"Mary, Shadow feels very bad about how rude he was to you. He'd really like to apologize---and thank you for helping him with his pain. He won't come to you until you tell him it's okay. He's a very special dog."

A few seconds later, Shadow sat at her feet and allowed her to scratch behind his ears.

This feel really good, Eric! She is smiling...there are tears in her eyes. Why does making me feel good make her cry?

"She's not sad; those are happy tears...tears of joy. You have a lot to learn about people---good people, Shadow...dog people. They will care for you, feed you, ensure that you stay healthy and give you a comfortable home in which to live. Many will even risk their lives for you and all they ask is that you let them love you and love them back. Having you near makes them feel safe and in return they will do their very best to ensure that you are always safe."

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