Why do some dogs learn to “talk?” Dogs normally bark. Sometimes they howl, most commonly when a fire truck siren goes by. A few special dogs learn to mimic human speech to sound like they are “talking.” These dogs can express their feelings quite well in that way. Perhaps it may come about if the dog suffers a traumatic event.
My favorite “talking dog” was known as Pike’s Dog. I wish I had a video of him. Both Pike and his dog are long since dead. But, the story of Pike’s Dog is a true story worth telling.
My parents once owned a cabin in the California high desert. My mother was completely entranced by the desert. On her first trip to California, she found the dry heat of the desert very satisfying. So, when an opportunity presented itself to buy land in the desert, she did. They had a pink cinder block cabin built in an area east of Landers, California and north of Joshua Tree. My parents became weekend desert rats.
Over the years people moved out there, and many of the original desert rats were replaced by retirees and disabled people who lived there full time. One of the latter was a man named Pike. I suppose Pike had a first name but everyone called him Pike.
Pike was a tall, lanky man, usually dressed in cowboy boots, Levi’s, and cowboy hat. He drove an old pickup truck. He lived with his Aunt and they looked after each other. My Dad quickly made friends with Pike. They helped each other hook up water to their cabins when the municipal water came into the area.
Around the time of the water hook up, Pike told my Dad he had acquired a German Shepherd mix dog. Pike said a man who lived on the other side of the paved road kept a dog chained up. The man would whip the dog when he got drunk.
Then, Pike said he found out that the man had shot and wounded the dog with his gun. Pike said enough was enough. He loaded up his .38 Smith & Wesson revolver and went to the man’s property. He pointed the gun at the man and untied the dog.
“I’m takin’ this here dog home with me,” said Pike, “and if you interfere, I’ll plug you. I ought to plug you anyways for the way you treated this poor dog.”
Pike brought the dog home and then took him to the Vet on his meager income. He then nursed the dog back to health. After the dog recovered, Pike let the dog run around loose in the neighborhood. Pike’s dog would go visiting, usually in the morning before it got too hot.
Those were in the days after my parents retired. They made frequent week long trips to the desert. Every morning, after my mother brewed the coffee, they would have two visitors. A roadrunner would appear on the porch and my mother would talk to the bird. The bird would cock her head this way and that and make a kind of clucking sound. Then, off she would go, running. The same bird would show up the next morning at the same time. Then, Pike’s dog would come to visit. He never barked, he “talked.” My Dad told me he had never heard a dog “talk” like Pike’s dog.
I was out there one weekend with them. Early that morning, Pike’s dog came to visit after the coffee was brewing. At first he flinched when I looked at him, but I talked softly and held out my hand palm down for him to sniff and to lick. Soon he was “talking” to me as I rubbed his neck. It was a kind of mellow yodeling, mournful and soulful. I suppose he was trying to tell me of all the awful things that evil man had done to him. I would urge him on with phrases like “Is that so? Tell me more.” Pike’s dog would get quite passionate in his “talk.”
It was a marvel that a dog could overcome such miserable treatment and become so friendly and unafraid again. Much of the credit goes to Pike. He was a good man. If the dog had a name, I never knew it. We called him Pike’s dog.