The TV is blaring. Everyone is talking. And all that racket can come to a sudden silence when we hear a familiar, household sound:
Molly is our rescue dog, a mix of terrier and German shepherd. Yank her ears, accidentally thump her head and stick your face in her food. Throughout it all, Molly will turn the other hairy cheek and offer what amounts to a canine’s best effort at a smile. (She was understanding last week when I dropped a waffle on her head, leaving her hair entangled with butter.) But, in very unladylike fashion, Molly will coolly tap her paws across the tile, belt out a belch and keep trotting as if to say, “It wasn’t me. It was the human.” Some burps are mild. Others make you curious if she is truly a large man dressed in a dog costume.
I’ve wondered aloud on Twitter why Molly doesn’t cover her mouth or offer an “excuse me.” You might chuckle at my request, but I don’t believe I ask the impossible. In the beginning, while enjoying human leftovers on a paper plate, Molly frustratingly watched the plate slide subtly away each time she took a bite. Imagine eating dinner and after each fork full, the plate moved slightly toward the center of the table. Molly solved this problem, learning to place a paw on the plate while eating, keeping her meal stationary in order to enjoy leftover pasta. Her maneuver and ability to problem solve impressed me even though she leaves me to throw the plate in the trash.
I once watched Molly, exhausted with a small dog who wouldn’t stop yapping, pin a canine in a corner by pressing a paw against the center of the smaller creature’s stomach. Any wrestler would envy this move and offer her a victorious three count.
None of this mentions the more traditional paw moves of digging up backyard dirt, stretching out a leg to the command of “paw” or using that paw to playfully keep a toy and block my attempt to give my dog a bear hug. So I don’t believe I make an unreasonable request for Molly to raise a paw to cover her mouth when burping. She can do it. I know she can. And don’t tell me she doesn’t know burping out loud is bad. Dogs know when they’ve done something wrong and our feedback in the past should lead her to no other deduction.
Unless she’s holding back, Molly probably can’t say “excuse me.” But she uses her voice for many purposes. She’s learned barking at certain times translates into “Let me out,” “let me back in,” “an SUV just pulled into the driveway across the street,” “someone you don’t want to talk to is at the front door” and “shut up dog next door. This wall prevents me from seeing you, but I know you’re there and if this wall ever comes down, I will take YOU down.”
Molly, the next time she strolls past the TV and burps, could certainly turn her head toward me and offer a soft, off-the-cuff ruff, which I would immediately understand to mean, “excuse me.”
Molly is likely a dog of the unsophisticated streets who didn’t spend her first six months lapping up luxury at the feet of a wealthy parent who served her real chicken and rice. But, at some point, she must take personal responsibility and realize that, no matter what is acceptable on the streets or in dog society in general, belching with vigor and pride is generally not acceptable behavior. A really loud one will force me to rewind my DVR to replay a line I missed on TV. I encourage canines to join the conversation, create content and apply a call to action to address similar issues while using questionable metrics to determine the discussion’s ROI. Perhaps this will help with one of Molly’s few follies.