English for Pets

By Amy Chavez
For The Bali Times

Trying to communicate with your cat or dog and not getting through? Maybe you’re just not speaking their language. What language is that? Of course, that universal language — English! After all, Lassie understood English. Garfield thinks in English. And Mr. Ed, the horse, spoke it. Your pet can, too.
So today, I’d like to offer my free course called “English as a second language for pets.” The first language being their native language, such as dog, cat, etc. This course, based on the Silent Method (a real language learning method!) is designed to help you better communicate with your pet. It may be frustrating at first, but if your pet doesn’t understand, repeat the words loudly and clearly, over and over, until he gets it.
In general, dogs are very good English-language learners because they are eager to please. So if you’ve been hesitant about befriending that Bali street dog you see every day, go ahead and approach him and see what happens. With your new language teaching skills, you’re bound to make friends with Bali street dogs very easily.
But dogs are bad with grammar. Never use complete sentences! They won’t understand and will just trot away in embarrassment. Instead, stick to simple one-word greetings, such as “Hi there!” or “Selamat pagi!” always with enthusiasm. Dogs appreciate it. Other one-word commands will be respected, such as “Sit!” “Beg!” and “Come!” Always use gestures with dogs. Dogs like body language.
Dogs are very gender-conscious so attach the gender to commands as in “Down boy!”  or “Come on girl!” Especially with praise, gender tags work wonders: “Good boy!” or “Good girl!”
But dogs are very sensitive to criticism, so don’t yell insults. If you must, disguise them in sentences like “Get your bloody paws off me, mate!” or “For Christ’s sake, move over to your side of the bed!”
Cats are immune to insults, so let them fly! “Off the damn hood of the car!” “Out of the kitchen, beast!” Cats can handle long sentences, too, so if you come home to your cat flopping around uncontrollably on the floor, go ahead and let it rip: “You idiot! You ate my large, ornamental carp from the fish pond! Spit him out now!”
When praising your cat, use explicit adjectives, as in, “You beautiful, charming cat!” to elicit purrs. Long philosophical talks with your cat will make her smile and squint her eyes in approval. Cats are very quiet creatures who like to meditate. To cats, silence is golden, so never spend too much time trying to talk to them. One long philosophical talk per week maximum.
Birds are popular pets in Bali. Never insult a bird, though, because he may fly away and never come back. Birds like grammar. But with birds, stick with the basics: “Polly want a cracker?” or “Nyoman want a kacang?” When you want to communicate with your bird, do it in the late morning, after it has had its wake-up morning concert. Birds really do not like to be interrupted while they are singing.
But most Balinese birds aren’t very interested in language learning. And really, their songs are far more beautiful than any language we produce. So when around birds, it’s best to just resort to being a good listener.
Fish have never been very good language learners. Almost anything you say to them is going to produce the same response: a puzzled look and throbbing lips. Go ahead and take out your stress by insulting your fish: “Swim, you lazy sack of scales!” Or play cruel games: “Watch out – here comes a shark!” The reason fish aren’t very good language learners is not because they are dumb, however. It’s because they are naturally hearing-impaired, due to their surroundings. Think about it. If you lived in the water, every time someone spoke to you, the words would come out garbled. Therefore, if you really want to get through to your fish, I suggest you take him out of the water first.
This can be especially annoying if you have a pet octopus. Since octopi tend to be kleptomaniacs, this can lead to many an interrogation outside the aquarium: “Olie, did you take my motorbike key again? Time for a hand check.”
Reptiles are definitely the worst language learners. Never expect a response from a turtle, for example. Stick to the basics: “Dude, wake up! You’ve overslept.” or “Hey, are you still alive?”
If after my ESL for Pets course, you still can’t get through to yours, perhaps the problem isn’t your pet. Perhaps you need to enroll in one of my other courses, such as “Barking for Better Communication” Or “Purring Your Point.”

Strict teacher Amy is at amychavez2000@yahoo.com.

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