Pika on Snow

Pika on Snow
Click for Big Picture

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
Click picture for enhancement

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. :)

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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18 Responses to Pika on Snow

  1. Nance says:

    I’m glad to find your posts again. Always interesting. Thanks.

  2. GAYLE TORREY says:

    I’m glad she’s doing well, I love seeing the dogs!

  3. Terry Byrne says:

    Lots of things coming into my email go straight to trash
    Not Walter’s. Would it be possible to post video of your dogs herding pigs?

  4. Colleen says:

    I am fascinated by your dogs vocabulary and how you train them! Could you share more information on this? Super cool looking dog…

  5. Peter says:

    How much snow have you had this year? We have had nothing so far down here in Maryland. Hope your family is well!

    • Not as much as usual. There is about 18″ of snow pack? Usually it is 3′ by now. Total snow fall is about 14′ typically but it compresses. We may get a lot more though. Never know until August. :)

      “August!?” he asks…

      Well, yes, in August is when the snow for next year often starts. Gotta have a cut off at some point for the end of one winter and start of the next…

  6. Eli says:

    Wowza! She is soooooooo beautiful! I wish I had a dog like her. And your hand print next to hers makes you look like a child. She has giant paws like the wolves from game of thrones! So amazing!

  7. Erik S. says:

    Its so beautiful where you are. I love your land scapes. White snow. Blue sky. Beautiful. Beautiful dog or wolf or what ever she is. Holy sh*t are her paws huge! With the side view of her that foot print makes me really just how hhuge she is. I love seeing the coparison with your hand really brings it home.

    • The pack here is about 87% wolf. The originator’s of the pack were 100% wolf but some German Shepherd and Wolf Hound mixed into the pack’s genetics over the past 30 years. Another interesting note is that wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs are really all the same species and can interbreed – they’re just different breeds, like Chihuahua vs Great Dane vs Labrador Retriever. A human equivalence would be the difference between us (Homo sapiens) vs Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) – we can interbreed and produce viable offspring as has been found in the genetic and fossil records. Note there is ongoing debate and reclassification of what genus vs species vs breeds means so some of these words are up for negotiation but you get the idea.

  8. George says:

    I see that you are back to blogging.


  9. Jack says:

    HOLY CHRIST! Im glad not to meet her in a dark allay. She looks big in the pix but her pawprint is enormose!

  10. Betty Brown says:

    Hi that one of Smokes puppies..beautiful girl..

  11. Betty Brown says:

    Hi that one of Smokes puppies..beautiful girl..is this a new picture of het

  12. Terry Byrne says:

    It has been sometime since I last read this post, so long that I didn’t realize that I had read it before. Before I saw my request for you to video the dog herding pigs in a previous reply Feb 21, 2020 my first thought reading the entire comment was the same as mine a year and four months ago, ” I wonder if Walter would do a video of the dogs herding the pigs.” :)

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