Awhile back, a woman in my office remarked to me in a tone of mixed astonishment and disbelief, “You talk to your dog like he’s a person.”

I hadn’t much thought about it … but it’s true. In fact, I sometimes share long narratives with him.

Awhile back, a woman in my office remarked to me in a tone of mixed astonishment and disbelief, “You talk to your dog like he’s a person.”
I hadn’t much thought about it … but it’s true. In fact, I sometimes share long narratives with him.
Like yesterday as we circled Lakeside Park, where I had taken him off the leash to run free.
“Look, Arlo, there’s Mr. Heron. (He turns at the sound of my voice.) Isn’t he majestic? Native Americans believe he embodies wisdom and patience — a very good omen.”
Arlo stops, stares intently at the heron standing perfectly still as he looks out over the water — his visage majestic and posture regal in the half-light of 5:30 a.m. Kansas.
“Nothing to say, huh Arlo? Well what about that moon?” I nod toward the west where the buttermilkiest of moons is suspended just above the tree line. “You know a full moon is a sign of power … and clarity of mind.”
“Ruff,” he responds with a muffled bark as he sprints off after three green heads — tame mallards that live in the park and roam nearby yards. They take flight, in an archetypal whirr of feathers, just as he’s about to collide with them and sail thirty feet out into the water. He gives me an accomplished look and bounds around the curve of the pond to do the same to some mottled geese grazing in the ripe green grass beneath a catalpa tree.
I’m guessing the ducks and geese probably know he’s a puppy who wouldn’t know what to do if he ever caught one of them — but they play the game nonetheless. One of these days a cranky goose will turn on him with wings spread wide and squawk loudly, sending him scurrying in retreat.
Arlo’s not the only one I talk to on our walks. I greet all the dogs in the neighborhood: “Hello Angelina.” “Good morning, Nub.” “Good to see you, Ellie.” “I see you there in the fence, Buddy.” “Hi June.” “Okay, okay, no need to keep barking. I’m moving along, Small Fry.” “Whoa, you got a haircut Big Dog!”
A creature of habit, Arlo maintains his daily recycling routine by picking up paper, aluminum and plastic but, to be honest, he prefers road kill. A week or so ago, we were walking in the dark, and after a couple of blocks of a horrific smell, I discovered what I thought was a large stick was a rotting squirrel.
“Drop it!” He hung his head and looked up in defiance. “ARLO KNOLL, I SAID DROP IT!” He dropped it. “Good boy.” As we continued he defiantly picked it up again. “DROP IT!” I shouted even louder, immediately embarrassed that I might wake up the neighborhood. This time when he let go I pulled hard on the leash to get him away from his putrid prize.
This is not an unusual occurrence. Yesterday, as we turned off Georgia Street to the walking path on the old Missouri Pacific right of way, I noticed he had a peculiar looking object in his mouth. Turned out to be channel cat head he’d been carrying since we passed through the park.
I also like to sing to Arlo the lyrics to latest song I’m learning, say aloud my morning prayers and poems, and tell him my troubles. He’s a good listener.
He’s also something of a talker. More vocal than any dog I’ve every known. For instance, as I’m writing this it’s raining outside and he’s talking to me in a series of whines, moans, barks, pleads and angry vocalizations, saying, “Why aren’t we going across the street to play with my puppy friend, Ellie Harries, like we do every day at five o’clock?”
“Arlo, we can’t do that in the rain because you’ll both get all muddy. Sorry.”
He walks from my office to the kitchen and back through the living room to look out the window at Ellie’s house, then back me to whine, moan, bark, plead and bark a little angrier than before — which I interpret as, “Well, at least you could take me for a walk.”
As I get to the back porch I see him by the door, pacing back and forth and jumping up and down, his tail a waving exclamation point.
I smile, pull on my rain poncho, and we set off up the street. “I see you want to go this way today,” I say as he crosses to the north side of Euclid Street with me in tow.
“Maybe we’ll see the red fox. He’s been around a lot lately,” I tell him. “You know, Arlo, the fox has two Native American interpretations. The northern tribes see the fox as a wise and noble messenger. The plains tribes view him as a trickster that plays pranks, or worse, lures you to your downfall. What do you think?”
“Ruff,” he responds as he yanks me forward up the glistening brick street digging hard for something he’s spied in the gutter up ahead.
J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or