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Is There a Puppy There?
A man’s baby talk heard through the fence

I was hanging my laundry near our backyard fence, which borders the sidewalk, when I heard the dog tags. Soon after, I could make out the shape of a Boxer through the small gaps between the slats. The dog was clearly aware of my presence, based on his level of excitement and his intense sniffing of the fence. The man walking him spoke with that baby voice so commonly used to address dogs, saying, “Do you hear a new friend? Is there a puppy in there?”

“No, just a person,” I replied, and I could feel the mortification across the fence. The man laughed sheepishly, said, “Hello,” and hurried on by with his dog. As he walked away, he spoke in what I think was a purposely deep voice, saying, “Let’s go, Bailey. We’ve got more walking to do.”

I felt terrible about making him feel awkward or foolish. What he doesn’t know is that rather than think less of him for using such sweet talk with his dog, it makes me respect him more. I find it charming when a man loves his dog, and there is nothing wrong with a little baby talk between a fella and his dog. Still, I can understand how he might have felt embarrassed. He got caught in what he thought was a private (no other humans around) moment until I spoke up. In retrospect, I should have kept silent. For one thing, I would have avoided making this kind man feel silly, and I also might have had the opportunity to observe more of his interaction with his dog.

Have you been caught in what you thought was a private moment between you and your dog?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.

Photo by Andry Fridman

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