Makes Me Want to Gag

Kavi on Cliff

On of our livestock guardian dogs Kavi had gotten a stomach bug or something. Maybe he ate somebody he didn’t agree with. In any case he threw up a little bit of bark and bile Friday evening. Saturday morning I offered him yogurt and he said no. I offered cooked liver and broth. He said no. I offered a piece of cooked heart.

He got up, moved a bit further away, pointed at the piece of delicious heart and slowly but clearly signed to me just once:

He made a gagging sound “Ka!” while holding his jaws open and wiggling his tongue at me.

After this rather long speech for Kavi, he’s normally the strong silent type, he looked me in the eye and then went to lie down again a bit further away.

“Okay, Kavi.” I said, “I get it. The smell of the meat is making you want to gag, you don’t feel well and you would like to be left alone.”

The gagging sound, jaw motion and tongue bit was not one of the signs in our common language but it was clear what he was saying. Sometimes we just have to improvise when we communicate. It was a good facial imitation of gagging although it had none of the abdominal clenching of real retching – he was just miming to get across the concept. Marceau would have been proud.

When a dog tells you that a smell, especially the smell of good meat, makes him want to gag that’s a pretty strong statement given the things I’ve sometimes seen them eat. They’ve got cast iron constitutions as well as stomachs that can digest bones, teeth and, er, fermented meat they’ve buried for a few days, or longer.

On Sunday he was doing better than the night before so I think he’s on the road to recovery. He’s drinking some water, eating a little yogurt and considered options when I asked him if he wanted some chicken broth or pork broth. He ended up saying “No” “Thank you”. For a while he was just giving me the eye when I asked how he felt. At least now he’s talking about it.

Update 20140210: This morning Kavi felt much better and is definitely recovering.

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Outdoors: 18°F/4°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/62°F

Daily Spark: I went to the doctor and she told me I had the body of a 20 year old. Unfortunately she was a vet and she thought I was a dog.

We use a variant of ASL and herding signs with our dogs and each other to communicate about things without spoken language. This lets us and the dogs say things that are otherwise difficult to communicate in our respective languages.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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8 Responses to Makes Me Want to Gag

  1. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    I’m glad to hear someone else who thinks dogs are co-sentients. Have been feeling somewhat alone about that. My Dad used to discuss the intents and inferences of our family pooches and I learned to pay attention to them as to other people. Truly glad to see someone similarly inclined. Without a dog now. Being trained by a cat. They’re good at that.
    Our rain has finally arrived, politely only at night. Camelot. Perhaps too late to save the range lands. Seriously chilly, at about 38 Fahrenheit and about 85 % humidity. Enjoy your dry cold, Jeffrieses.

  2. Pablo says:

    I’m glad Kavi’s on the road back. He’s an important member of your crew.

  3. Zephyr Hill says:

    I love, love, love how your dogs talk to you. Poor Kavi! Your comment about what he ate reminds me of a line from one of the James Bond movies: “Something he disagreed with ate him.” I hope Kavi is all well soon!

  4. Kat says:

    You can also try boiled brown rice [chilled] mixed with canned pumpkin.

  5. Nicola says:

    Poor Kavi, but what a great story! I enjoy reading about your communicating with your dogs!

  6. ron says:

    possibly bone,or something small stuck in his throat?
    happened to my dog 1 time

    • No, he wasn’t actually gagging, he was using the mimed motion to communicate about how his stomach felt. As noted above, Kavi didn’t do any of the actual gagging body and throat constrictions, he merely opened his jaws wide and wiggled his tongue to represent the action after signing. He also hadn’t eaten for quite a while which was the original reason I had approached him asking if he was hungry.

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