As anyone who has pets can tell you, after a while you develop a certain understanding with your pet, a way that you communicate with each other, verbal and non-verbal cues you pick up on so that you can understand what the other wants and needs in a given moment.
Watching and interpreting Tuco's signs and signals is an ever-amusing and evolving sport, and seeing how he interprets us is even more so.
For example, Tuco's peeing style: I always thought that all male dogs cocked their legs to pee right from the get-go, but I have since learned that this is not the case.
Much of the time Tuco just kind of stretches his back legs out slightly and dips his hips and pees like that, kind of splay-legged, both back paws on the ground. He has quite a devil-may-care stance when he does this, in my opinion, a kind of "A-hoy Matey!" attitude.
When he is trying to send a message to other dogs however, be it on a walk or at the dog park against a shrub or tree trunk, then he cocks his leg. He does this with quite a bit of exuberance, shoving his leg up as high as it will go standing on the tip of his other back paw, I assume for maximum coverage.
The problem with this is that he lifts his leg so high and lifts it with such a sudden movement that he often teeters over mid-pee, and then has to try and recover his dignity and make sure the other dogs don't suspect that he just fell over while having a wee wee.
But the pee on the tree is always a clear message to other dogs that he was there.
In other ways he makes himself clear to us:
It's pretty clear when he stands by the door of the house that he needs to go out to pee, or when he won't leave the kitchen that he's telling us it's time to eat.
He seems to understand us much of the time, too. When we say "sit", he sits. When we say "In your place", he runs into his crate. When we say "Do you want your breakfast (or lunch, or dinner)?" he runs into the kitchen, tail wagging.
There are a few things that seem not to be quite so clear. Most dogs will become apoplectic when asked if they want to go out, or go for a walk, or go to the park. Tuco, however, when we ask him any of those questions, simply stares at us, maybe giving a slight tail wag, and then runs away from us as soon as he sees the leash.
This is made more confusing by the fact that when I ask "Do you want to run an errand?" he is delighted and wags his tail no end and can't wait to go. Running an errand usually involves me driving somewhere and leaving him in the car while I go to Trader Joe's or Target. This seems, however, to be no end of fun for him for some reason.
The fact that he runs away from us when he sees the leash is the oddest thing by far, because this is a dog that LOVES to go to the park and run and chase the ball, and in the mornings, when he needs to go somewhere to run, he lets us know it in no uncertain terms.
It begins with him rolling around on his back, teeth bared, making odd snuffling and snorting noises. It then progresses to him staring at us from a distance. And staring. And staring. He then moves closer. And closer. Still staring (see photo above). Then he puts his chin in one of our laps. And stares.
If that doesn't work, he moves on to the windows, raising the shades noisily with his snout and staring longingly outside. Then back at us. Then back outside.
If this still doesn't produce results he then progresses to operation-squeaky-toy, during which he picks up a variety of squeaky toys and pillows in turn and obsessively squeaks them, so that there is no possibility of ignoring him and no way we can hear the television, or ourselves think.
If that also fails, then he brings out the big guns: the chew toy. This is a dense, hard, plastic object which he will pick up and fling around the house, causing it to crash loudly against our hardwood floors. He will do this until our heads explode, or our floors are dented, or we finally, finally, take him out.
Once in the car he paces around the back, whimpering, whining and groaning like Chewbacca until we finally get to the park, whereupon he flings himself dramatically against a tree to announce his arrival with a pee, loses his balance and falls over.
My Wine for Doggie Communication is a 2009 Yves Leccia Domaine d'E Croce Patrimonio Rouge. This is red wine from the Patrimonio appellation in Corsica. The wine is made from 90% Niellucciu and 10% Grenache.
Now if you have never heard of the Niellucciu grape varietal you are not alone. I had never heard of it either! In fact, I just made it up.
No, that's not true either! Fact is, there is some dispute about the varietal itself, with some people claiming it is indigenous to the island of Corsica, while others maintaining it is a clone of the Sangiovese grape from Italy.
Regardless of its origins, the wine is yummy. It can be something delicious and surprising to bring out for guests who tend to like Pinot Noir, but might like to try a wine that is unusual and probably unlike anything they've had before. It is not an overpowering wine, with lots of bright, juicy red berry fruit, notes of rose soap leaves and a pronounced essence of damp stone.
I got it from Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in Berkeley, CA for around $28/bottle, and if you want to try it they ship anywhere in the US that allows.