Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Distinguished Standard Poodle Gait

I like to write letters. No, not the kind you write to people when you’re away on holiday. Not the kind of things you use to compose emails which you send to distant relatives because you’re too cheap to pay for postage. Letters. As in the alphabet.

I like to practice writing my name by experimenting with different fonts. I imagine how I would write if I was a wealthy British man. Would my handwriting be any different than that of a wealthy British woman? Or how about a poor British woman? Or how about a dog? How would a dog write its name? Oh! Speaking of dogs, I am reminded of an incident that took place a few weeks ago.

I had enrolled in an acting class at the local community centre and for our first exercise we were asked to pretend to be dogs. Naturally, the over-enthusiastic artsies began howling and licking themselves – and I mean licking. These freaks actually sat their on the floor, licking their hands, or “paws”. One guy actually tried to lick the face of the girl beside him. The shy, nervous folk just sat quietly, occasionally muttering an “Arf” and the “too-cool-for-school” group sat together in a corner, pointing and laughing.

I tried to portray my neighbor’s male standard poodle in a dignified manner that I felt would do his well-disciplined, high society demeanor justice. So, like a seasoned actor, I took a few moments to get into role, and then I experimented. First, I got on all fours, stuck my head up high, and pranced from one end of the room to the other. I stopped because it was painful and difficult. Plus, I realized that his highness wouldn’t prance – he wasn’t that high-strung. So to make him appear more relaxed, I incorporated a little strut into his – my – wobbly gait. I raised my head about thirty degrees, spread out my hind legs – my legs – and began to slide on my hands and knees, swaying my hips and shoulders in opposite directions. This walk didn’t seem particular to Winston, either, so I gave up and sat down on my human bum.

“Very nice, class” our lovely instructor said. “I especially liked your impression of one of the Queen’s corgis, Ziggy” (That’s my name, not the dog’s) And that’s when I came to realize that if Winston (THAT’S the dog’s name) was a human, he would probably be British. I began thinking about this more thoroughly:

If Winston was a person, he’d definitely have a British accent, and if he’d come from England, he’d probably lived in a mansion back home, since he was no doubt born into money – being a stuck-up poodle, and I’ve always thought that wealthy people – wealthy dogs -- in Britain lived in mansions, like mini Buckingham Palaces. So if he lived in a mansion, he’d probably think my community, with its post-war bungalows and strip malls to be quite tacky and pathetic. But wait. If he did have money, he wouldn’t live in this area, and if he didn’t live in this area, he wouldn’t have come to this community centre. Oh! I’ve got it! It’s all making sense now! He wouldn’t have come to take acting classes at this community centre in the first place because these classes are really cheap and he could afford to pay a really classy stage actor who would come to his mini-Buckingham Palace to give him private lessons!

“Alright class,” the instructor announced. “Now I am going to show you how I have interpreted my standard poodle’s walk.” (Oooh, she has a standard poodle too!) She crouched, looked down to the floor, took a deep breath, then raised her head and howled. I guess this was her way of “becoming” her dog. Then she got on all fours and walked. One foot – one paw – in front of the other. Very mechanical. I was so shocked by this gross mis-representation of the distinguished standard poodle gait that I got up, put my coat on and walked toward the door.

“Where are you going?” The teacher asked.
“Home,” I said.
“Because a poodle would never come to this class, let alone walk like that.”
I walked out of the room and slammed the door behind me.

As I walked home, I began to wonder just how exactly Winston would speak if he could talk. Now, certainly a number of things must be taken into account here: he must have the vocal cords of a human and the cognitive ability to understand language and string words together cohesively. But if Winston had the capacity to speak language, what would he say? Would he indeed have a British accent? So many things to think about!

I’ve watched movies and television shows where animals talk as humans do, but only to each other (this includes dogs, cats, birds, rats – whatever) and only other animals, regardless of species, can understand. But they do not talk out loud. They look at another animal, think about what they want to say and somehow the other animal receives the message and responds in the same manner. There’s nothing vocal about it. How could this possibly happen? Can animals communicate telepathically with one another? Would dogs speak the same language as their owners?

Ah, none of this makes any sense. It couldn’t possibly work. So if a dog cannot speak, surely he can’t write. I mean, even if he could write, he doesn’t have the proper digits. Not even a poseable thumb! He’d just scribble, I guess. Or maybe he could do a loose drawing of some kind. It would look likely something I tried to draw with my left hand.


  1. Hee! Hee! If you were trying to impersonate me, all you would have had to do is stare into space and drool...! :-)

    Honey the Great Dane

  2. No! Great Danes are emotional, gentle creatures. I'm sure there is more too them than slobber and staring! I LOVE them.

  3. Obviously, the way to go is ESP, for animals and humans alike! :)

  4. Ah, yes, Jinksy. I'd love to get into the mind of another person or a dog, but I feel like the only way I could understand what they're thinking is if I have some context about what it's like to be them. What makes them tick?

    I think we can go crazy trying to figure people out because we can never truly know what another person is going through.

  5. This post is hilarious, on so many levels! You walked out of the class? LOL!!!
    Ahem, on a serious note, dogs communicate with energy. Kind of like ESP but without the spookiness. I have learned to understand my little dog quite well - he is part Shih Tzu, and apparently they are well-known for their expressive faces. No kidding! I can even tell one sort of bark from another - the "Something's out there" from the "I'm bored, give me attention" or "Molly's going over the fence!" barks.
    Do you watch the Dog Whisperer on TV? I think you'd love it, I really do.

  6. Oh no! Did I not make it clear that this was a work of fiction? Damn. That's really funny....

    My sister's boyfriend has a shii poo and his face IS SO expressive! Just now I caught him chewing on the furniture. I scolded him; he stopped chewing and just about said, "What? Me?" hahaha thanks for the doggie communication information. I actually don't have access to any channel that plays "The Dog Whisperer."