Dogs and Language

This morning I had further evidence of Mister Wicked’s grasp of language, not mere vocabulary but what happens when words go together. Mister Wicked is very fond of snatching slippers, mittens, pillows, etc. and fleeing with them. He wants to be chased, and if he isn’t chased, he comes back and peeks around the corner, saying, “Grr? Grr!” until he is chased. If you don’t chase, he drops the stolen object pointedly on the floor, lies down with a world-weary sigh, and sulks.

Today I decided a pair of my leather slippers had finally come to the end of their useful life, having holes in the toes and soles and generally having reached a state of final decrepitude. Rejecting the Spouse’s suggestion that I bury them in a bog to become archaeology in a few hundred years, I decided that since Mister Wicked enjoyed slippers so much, he might as well have a pair of his own. (He already has his own felt boot-liner, and knows that his is for playing tug while those belonging to the humans are for stealing and running away with.) He was outside at the time, so I put the slippers in the corner where his toys tend to get heaped. When he came in, he saw or smelt them at once, of course, and went straight to him. I watched him standing, contemplating them. Is this a test?

“Those are Mister Wicked’s slippers,” I said. He looked at me, and I swear his eyes went all shiny and round like a kid opening up their best Christmas present. Really? Mine? He grabbed a slipper and went prancing and capering out to his box in the kitchen, not fleeing as he does with a stolen slipper, but in full gleeful pride of ownership. Having safely cached it in his den, he came back for the other. The novelty, of course, will wear off. Stolen slippers are more fun, being more interactive — running around with your own slippers does not guarantee a good game of chase the way stolen slippers do. For the time being, though, he is a very happy dog, secure in the knowledge that these particular slippers now belong inalienably to Mister Wicked, because the human told him so.


About K.V. Johansen

The author of Blackdog, The Leopard, The Lady, and Gods of Nabban, epic fantasies from Pyr, I also write for teens and children, including the "Torrie", "Warlocks of Talverdin", and "Cassandra Virus" series, and the "Pippin and Mabel" picture books, as well as a couple of short story collections and two works of adult literary criticism on the history of children's fantasy literature. I have a Master's degree in Mediaeval Studies, and read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, and history. Blog at
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