Pika on Snow
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Pika has gotten big. She stands 5’10” tall when she’s up on her hind legs, might be taller than that if she stood fully upright. She easily puts her paws down on my shoulders. She’s about 120 lbs. Massively different than the puppy that came to me.
Pika Paw on Left, Walter Paw on Right
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Pika’s paws are huge, the size of Hagrid’s although she’s only two thirds of his weight. They’re about the same length and shoulder height. An inspector saw her paw print in the snow, before seeing her, and asked what monster left it. They’re about the size of my palm. Realize I have large hands, my front paws measure over 4″ across the palm at the knuckles and I have a 10″ finger span. When Pika high-fives me her palm fills mine to overflowing, great for piano. Click on the image to see a closer view with an outline and measurement scale.
Her vocabulary is not as large, yet, as other dogs in our pack but she’s gaining. She has very clear use of yes and no so she can at least do twenty-questions with me when she’s trying to communicate something. She also has down the words and signs for open, over, cottage, pig, piglet, little, coyote, raven, food, meat, egg, ouch, please, thank you, hot, good, bad, hug, hello, over and Hanno’s name. It’s a limited vocabulary but covers most situations we need to communicate.
Realize, these are expressive, words she uses to talk to me or other dogs either verbally or using sign language. She understands far more than she expresses, perhaps over 200 words receptively by now, so the twenty-questions is our fall back when she’s searching for a way to say something.
An example of how 20-Questions goes with the dogs is I saw Pika lying looking off into space. I wanted to know what she was thinking about. I asked several things to each of which she said no. When I asked if she was thinking about Hanno she enthusiastically said yes. I then said Hanno is good and she strongly said yes to that too and smiled. I don’t know that she was really thinking about Hanno at that moment but it was a conversation that at least has some back and forth. I do use the phrase, “Thinking About” so she may grasp it, or it may just be she think’s Hanno is great.
The pidgin language that we use to communicate is a combination of ASL, English and Canine. One of the most interesting things about it is that the dogs use some of the ASL and English between themselves. It is not just used to communicate with us. Their accent is very guttural – there are some sounds we have in our language that they simply can’t do with their throat and tongue. Similarly there are things in their language that I know I mangle because my voice just can’t do some of the things they do so easily. For example, their name for me sounds like gargling rocks and it hurts for me to try and say it. Interestingly, I realized at one point that my name is “Walter” which sounds like “Water” and they may be saying “Water” in their language, which often has onomatopoeia words.
Another fascinating aspect is that there are some words and signs that they have created to express things, either by combining or making up completely new words. An example in our pidgin “little-nose-in-ground” is a sign combination they made up to mean piglets. It is a combination of other signs and they use it consistently both with me and each other.
Mostly the dogs communicate with one or two words. They definitely have the concept of adverbs and adjectives to modify nouns and verbs. Occasionally they string more words together with Katya setting the record with six word sentences. Little cerebral.
Pika is now very good at herding the pigs and howling away the coyotes. She tracks ravens from the ground so they can’t land. In the beginning she was quite scared of the pigs, they were huge to her. Now they’re very obedient to her. She lives for the moment when we need to move them. Herding is fun.
Outdoors: 23°F/-8°F Sunny, 3″ snow
Tiny Cottage: 66°F9°F
Daily Spark: Vacuuming is not ecologically sound. Keep in mind that the Earth is surrounded by the vacuum of space and barely holding onto it’s atmosphere. Every time someone vacuums they’re siphoning off a little more of our planet’s atmosphere into the vacuum of space where it will float around hopelessly and alone screaming until the end of time. That is why guys, who know better, don’t vacuum. :)