Dog self-expression is a hot topic these days. Behaviorists have studied everything from the meaning of a dog’s tail wag direction (right is happier than left; see the Discovery Channel story) to the signals a yawn sends (generally stress rather than boredom). But while some signs are universal, a kind of doggie Esperanto, others are particular to a given canine.
Frankie, for example, is a kissing fool, a face licker of the first magnitude. Far more than his tail, his tongue is a mood indicator and prime communicator.
Here’s a small sampling of his vast osculatory vocabulary:
Good morning. Sleepy, languid licks – a wake-up treat, undermined only by the more diligent attention paid to his privates than to my face, and by his tendency to alternate between the two.
I’m so excited to see you!!! Rapid, all-over-the-face kisses, proffered when I enter the house, no matter how long I’ve been gone. Involves neck rotation (his) for maximum coverage, and may include (unencouraged) nose nibbling. More passion than technique.
More rubs, please. The quid pro quo kiss, cursory and somewhat insincere. Offered in an attempt to get me to resume interrupted ministrations to him.
Stop grooming me! A series of rapid, recriminatory licks. I love you, why are you tormenting me? Subtext: My hair looks fine as it is and that stuff in the corner of my eyes gives me character.
What are you drinking? Slurpy, enthusiastic, including attempts (always rebuffed) to insert tongue into my mouth and often, mistakenly, my nasal passages. Especially fervid when alcoholic beverages are involved. Some neck rotation.
I’m here. Delicate licks designed to ensure my continued presence next to him on the couch. As refined as the sips of a sommelier tasting fine wines, sans swirling and spitting.
I’m sorry I lied. Several quick, guilty licks following barking that’s succeeded in tearing me away from writing to pay attention to him when no one is in fact at the front door and/or no food is burning.
If treats result from my having gone into the kitchen to check the stove, the licks verge on gleeful and insincere, making them a dialect variation on “More rubs, please” (see above).