While many of us talk for our pets, including myself, it would be interesting if one day they opened their mouths and actually started speaking. For this concept, I chose a large Bernese Mountain Dog bellying up to the table about to demand the waiter or parent to bring his food. I would imagine this to be a bit terrifying at first, but after that it would just be wondrous and rather cool. That said, I’d have to wonder if I’d be thoroughly surprised by the voice that came out. Would it be anything like what I imagined or something completely different? Either way, I’d love the chance to find out. Our dog, Phineas, for example, sounds a bit like a spoiled kid with a popular Instagram account when we speak for him, but when he writes, as we discovered earlier this month, it’s much more dignified and slightly British. Were he to suddenly start speaking I wonder where on the spectrum his voice would actually lie. If he did start talking it would be extra startling because he’s a barkless dog and is generally silent most of the time, save the sneezes of disapproval. And whether he’s pawing at us or simply staring us down, he never really has a problem communicating. In many ways it’s as though a blend of imagination and charisma has already had the magical effect of making him talk.
When I was a kid, I always wished that my pet hamster, Sparky, could have talked to me. For him, I imagined a low-pitched voice, unexpected for a hamster, and a very slow speech pattern, like Eeyore in Winnie The Pooh, without all of the depressing angst. But, it sadly never happened. I read an article somewhere that said treating out pets with human characteristics was a bad thing in that it can make us miss the reality of what the pet truly needs. I’m not sure I can comply with this entirely as the very act of anthropomorphizing our pets is also how we’re able to empathize with them and not treat them like accessories in our lives, but part of the family. True, though, it’s certainly important to empathize with the true nature of the pet as well. In the case of our Phineas, not only does he speak like a dog might, he’s also rather dog-centric. For example, when we’re watching a show with no dogs in it he says, “Meh, it was okay, but there wasn’t a single good actor. They probably couldn’t afford it.” If we’d like to experience the best form of entertainment television has to offer, Phineas insists it must be Paw Patrol, due to its all-star cast. Philippe and I have only watched Paw Patrol once in French while visiting Paris and to our knowledge Phineas has never even seen it. But, then again, we really have no idea what he does with his day when we’re at work.
Yet, it’s true that when it comes to our pets, we are very different animals. Honestly, I feel the same about various humans at times. In the end, it’s all just a lesson in empathy, that wondrous ability to understand and share the feelings of another living being. While there are certain humans I struggle to empathize with, I’ve always been able to empathize with animals. Animals seem to rarely do things that aren’t immediately explainable, via some primal urge, genetic predisposition or instinct. Humans, however, can do the most horrific things and a host of psychologists are required to sort it all out, often failing in the end to truly understand why. And though we speak our own language, animals have theirs as well. We just don’t comprehend it fully and assume that our own animal language is far superior. I have to think that dolphins probably feel the same way. Perhaps all types of animals imagine their own communication is the best one of all. Dolphins might be mimicking us in their own language, thinking how cute we are in our inability to speak correctly, but how touching are those offerings of fish to make amends for our shortcomings. We’re a wild and diverse universe of living beings and I think it would be a better world indeed, one filled with positive and constructive communication, if animals could talk.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Yellow Ochre, Terra Cotta, Opus (Vivid Pink), and Indigo. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!