This is my canine companion and pal, Jesse. The first time I saw that intent look, was in a kennel run at our local animal shelter, Rita B. Huff, in Huntsville. He sat quietly as I opened the gate and walked up to him, talking soothingly, he just stared up at me, searching for something in my eyes. He was trying to make a connection so that I would understand that his foot was hurting, even shifting his weight so I could see the painful foot. He didn’t want petting, he needed help. The Shelter staff let me bring him straight home and to the veterinary hospital. The diagnosis was a crushed toe, probably from being hit by a vehicle. That was May 2008.
After Jesse healed, received all his shots, finished his meds and the soft cast came off (after having it changed from every 3 days to twice a week for 3 months), he became a permanent member of the family. He also received an ID chip and alteration therapy. The full of course of special treatment. The Doc said that Jesse was in great shape health wise, about 5 or 6 years old, probably did a lot of running because of his heart rate. She also surmised that, although there is some Border Collie in his family tree, he is mostly Shetland Sheepdog.
Jesse began in earnest to train me in understanding what he was saying. When I ask him, “do you want to go outside?”, I’ve learned to watch and wait as he considers his options. It could be, ‘I guess I could spend time on the porch’ or ‘maybe in a few minutes’ or more often, “Yes! Need to Go Now”, or the definitive, “No thanks”. For the reply of “Go Now!”, he drops his forefront and stretching his front legs out in a play posture, that gets me up immediately and the door opened for him to make a quick get away. If he does an immediate sit, I am to know that his reply is ‘no thanks’. For an in between answer, he might stroll to the door and come back to get me, which I should construe that he wants me to open the door and go with him to the Cabin. If he does that neat sit and continues to stare at me, he is waiting for me to ask more questions.
The subtle and even precise body language between me and Jesse is like a conversation between long-time friends who can converse without having to finish our sentences. He has trained me well.
Jesse was 7 years old last May.
I continue to learn from the amazing little guy every day. Lessons such as, know when to ask for help, be polite when asking, show your appreciation (sometimes with great enthusiasm), be patient, eat right-exercise-take your medicine and things will get better, be clear in your communication, consider your options and think before making decisions, look into the other beings eyes when listening and the most important lesson of all, laugh every day! Jesse, my pal.
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