and how you say them matter (except to dogs and young children)
Recently my dad sent me a picture of my childhood dog. Pepper was the greatest dog that ever lived. Sort of a Collie Shepard mix she had two fairly unique talents. The first was that she loved to play with a traffic cone. I don’t know where we got it from but it was orange, made of rubber and stood about 2 ½ feet high.
She would grab the cone way up at the top as she ran by full tilt and drag that thing all over the yard shaking it like a burlesque dancer juicing on steroids. Oh sorry I forgot this is a family friendly site. Sticks, rocks, balls, etc… These things didn’t really do it for her. She loved the orange rubber traffic cone. Like all dog owners we’d find ways to play tricks on her. Drive a metal stake in the ground and put the cone on it. “Go get it, go get the cone”, we’d yell. She’d respond by getting up to a gallop, head cocked and ready . Take off running, twist her head and grab at the cone…. “BONK”. She’d look warily at the cone and then at us while we roared with laughter. Good times, good times. It’s a good thing Pepper wasn’t smart enough to piece all of the above together or she probably would have stopped getting so motivated by our taunts to get the cone.
A fast track to a destroyed relationship is to abuse or misuse words. We all know this intuitively. We learn at a very young age not to lie. We learn that words matter. It’s also true that by the time we get to be adults we think we can stretch things without fear of getting caught. Sometimes, words that are meant to cause a laugh are more like putting Pepper’s cone on a stake and watching her gallop towards it.
I used to tell Cara when she was just learning to talk and understand that “she was my favorite oldest daughter”. I’d say it in a manner that was sincere sounding and full of interest and focus. She’d smile a huge smile back at me. How I said it wasÂ more important then what I said. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know that she was my only oldest daughter. She heard how I said it and knew that she was special.
I frequent a local eatery that was known for its fish. Every time I went in I ordered the same thing. A fish lunch plate with fries and chowduh. On day I ordered my usual and moved away from the counter to wait for my name to be called. “John” finally rang out from the speaker over my head and I moved to the counter to pick up my lunch. Salivating as I went. By the time I go to the counter an older gentleman who had beaten me to the counter was gazing intently at my lunch. Not content to simply gaze he picked up the bun (which had fish protruding out two sides) as if looking for a hot dog and then started pushing aside some fries like he was mining for cole slaw. “This isn’t mine,” he said to which I replied “It isn’t mine now either.” Shortly after this incident I started using the name Edgar when I ordered food there and soon used Edgar as a joke when introducing myself to people I expected to never meet again. Well one day while helping the church with a nightime activity I was approached by another “security” conscript. A high energy, enthusiatic over the top kinda guy. The type that insist on a conversation no matter how you look away and try to ignore. Finally he asked, “What’s your name ?” “Edgar” I replied thinking he was from another church that was also attending the event. The next Sunday when I felt Libby’s foot strike my shin as this man walked up and and shook myhand and said “Hi Edgar” I realized again the words matter.
Pepper’s other unique quality ? Well let’s just say you could tell where Pepper stood politically. If you asked her “What would you rather be then a Democrat?” she would instantly fall over and play dead. This delighted most of our friends as we came from traditionalrepublican roots. But as the title indicates words don’t really matter to dogs and Pepper was usually on her way down to the floor by the time you got “What would you….” out of your mouth. You could put anything on the end of the sentence, republican, cat, dog, lawyer, vice-presidential candidate…….