I used to talk to the dog. I didn’t stop because of my enforced silence but because the dog went deaf. Other than a very high whistle the dog really cannot hear very much. She’s not really that much interested in people anyway though she loves my daughter which is galling after the number of times I have walked her (over 10,500 in case you’re interested) and follows her around like, well, a dog. This is mostly because my daughter tends to slip the dog milk bones and various treats while I am a fairly rigorous enforcer of a lean diet, which, might I point out, has led to the dog’s living long enough to accompany me (or me her) on many thousands of walks. Almost everyone likes talking to dogs and foolishly believe that the dog understands that it is admired. Dogs equate love and admiration with food, end of story. Perhaps my rather aloof dog, its love of my daughter notwithstanding, is an exception but I doubt it. When my dog, Daisy, passes the yard of another dog, barking often ensues, though rarely from Daisy. If the owner of the other dog is nearby he or she will order the dog to be quiet. In very rare instances the dog will stop barking. Mostly the barking keeps coming while the owner insistently tells the animal to be quiet. It’s an odd ritual, after all the dogs are doing what untrained dogs do and often the barking is playful though most people assume any barking is aggressive. If the dogs barking at Daisy could reach her they would probably sniff each other, dance around a bit and Daisy would move on. She’s not really much of a mixer with dogs, either. What I have realized about all this quieting of dogs is that the owners are embarrassed. It’s like people and their children. Why do parents find their children’s crying embarrassing? Children do as much inappropriate laughing as they do crying and no one ever sees fit to stop that. Nor should they, but, equally, let the child cry. If it annoys people move somewhere the child cannot be so easily heard. People see their barking dog as an extension of themselves, they worry that the person passing by, particularly if that person has a quiet dog, will judge them as out of control, as unconcerned with matters of decorum and manners. As goes the dog, so goes the owner is the thought they fear. People worry that a crying child indicates that they, the parents, are not raising the child to be tough and capable of dealing with this difficult world. Crying is for pussies and I ain’t no pussy. As far as I can see the most amazing thing about our species is that we are not crying all the time. The shushers of dogs want the passerby to believe that they are entirely in control of their animals, that they respond to their voices and this moment of insanity is a blip and were I to wander by tomorrow the dog would be calm and controlled and the owner would show me that he or she is the master of their domain. Of course I have passed these dogs thousands of times and they are always the same. The only point of pride I have about Daisy – other than the fact that she is trained – is that she has lived so long. This is mostly genetics but we have fed her and kept her properly and that seems to me to be worthy. I see people walking their dogs and talking to them and it is in this talking that you hear the owner’s personality come through. There’s a woman in our area with a small dog, and every time she sees other dogs she tells her own dog to be careful, she begins talking and moving as though the dog across the road or approaching along the sidewalk is potentially evil. A possible eater of other dogs. Immediately I know that her dog is aggressive but she would never admit this or try and fix it, rather proclaim loudly that the other dogs are savages. Which, of course, is what they are. They are dogs, after all. She’s the dog owning equivalent of the Ranting Preacher, aware of his consuming sin, as he sees it, but unwilling either to indulge that sin or confront it and so finds a soap box on which he stands and tells the world how sinful it is. The difference is that dogs cost you money while condemnation rakes in the dollars. I almost never say anything to Daisy when I walk her and never did much when she could hear me and now I am temporarily entirely silent but for my high whistle. I suppose that says something about my attitude both to pets and to the world in general. Love me love my dog.