…and our children, especially while they were really little.
We believe that like a child, a dog (or cat) that has been talked to often will imitate those speech patterns. It is how we learn to speak. It is why we speak the same language/accent as those who care for us when we are young. It is why I never allowed people to speak baby talk to my children.
Our dog, Bear, does his best to speak our language. He tries so hard. It’s adorable. Listen closely when your pet is obviously trying to tell you something, you may be able to pick out a word or two. As time passes, and you are truly listening, you may be able to make out some of what they are telling you.
Last night, I was headed downstairs to start dinner. Bear decided that he was going to accompany me. As he walked down the steps ahead of me, I informed him that I was well aware that Daddy had just taken him outside. I then asked him why he was headed downstairs if he did not need to go to the bathroom.
His response was pretty clear to me. He said, “I want to help.” I asked him how exactly he was going to help. Was he going to help with the clean up by eating anything I might drop before I’ve had the chance to clean it up? Or, perhaps, he intends on being helpful by tripping me or lying in the middle of the floor to make it more difficult to get around the kitchen as I grab and put away ingredients.
As I was recapping this story to my husband today, it occurred to me that it was my husband’s sarcasm that taught him to be so helpful in the kitchen. You see, when my husband is cooking, and he trips over the dog who seems to either be underfoot or lying so quietly in the middle of the kitchen that you forget he is there and ultimately trip over him. My husband’s response as he narrowly misses a disaster moving around the kitchen and the obstacle of a dog is to say, “You’re real helpful, Bear.” So, Bear continues to be helpful in the kitchen.
I have my own sarcastic mouth, as well. And with this sarcastic mouth, we teach our children (and fur babies) what these words mean to us. We teach them our language, and they mirror it back to us. Our children are sponges, absorbing everything they see and hear. They are learning about their world, curious about everything. And we teach them. Even the things we don’t want them to learn. Even the stuff we don’t think they see.
And they learn the definitions of words by how we use them. Be careful what definitions your sarcasm gives to the words you use. It may just well be defining it for the young ears that hear it.