My Dog Can Talk, the Story of Charlie, the Talking Dog

Author: Bill Hart

(Have you ever known anyone who thought his or her dog could talk?)

My phone rang and awakened me from a really good dream. Unfortunately, it dissolved with the mists and was gone (the dream, not the phone). It was forever lost in the ether, like the really good ideas you get when you are going to sleep. You promise yourself you'll remember them in the morning, but you never do. Like that.

It was my brother John, my one and only brother, my boon companion, my fishing buddy, my lifelong friend.

"What the heck are you doing calling me at this hour?" I angrily demanded. "And on a Saturday to boot!"

"I have something amazing to show you," he said.

"It can't wait until the sun is up? It's not like it's fishing season, John. Unless it's fishing season there's no reason on earth to get up this early on a Saturday morning."

"Just get over here as quick as you can. This is an emergency," he said and hung up before I could get more information.

Twenty minutes later, I walked into his kitchen and was greeted by Georgia, his longsuffering wife. She stood in the kitchen in her bathrobe, with a look of long suffering on her face. She handed me a steaming cup of coffee and retreated toward the living room. "Just remember," she said over her shoulder, "I had nothing to do with this."

John was seated at the table, his dog Charlie sitting in a chair beside him. I guess at this point I should give a little more information about John. He loved dogs and they loved him. He seemed to be able to communicate with canines just using telepathy. He could get dogs to do incredible things and seemed to be on their wavelength. His dogs always seemed to be smarter than other dogs. Charlie was a good example. Charlie was a Husky, German Shepherd mix whom John had rescued from the shelter.

Charlie sat at the table and looked over my brother's shoulder while he read the paper. In fact, whenever we sat at the kitchen table, Charlie sat in a chair just like a human, with an intelligent look on his face, and seemed to follow the conversation. He always looked at the speaker and seemed engrossed in the conversation, hanging on every word. I suspected that he wasn't as smart as he appeared, but John said he was smarter than he looked and questioned my intelligence.

The first sip of coffee hit my brain and the steam seemed to revive me a little, too.

"Okay, what's wrong?" I asked.

"Nothing is wrong," John said.

"You said it was an emergency," I said.

"It is, in a way. I need a witness," he said.

"Who is suing you?"

"No one is suing me, Bill. Why do you assume that someone is suing me?" he asked, testily.

"You just said you need a witness," I said. "You said it was an emergency. Why else would you need a witness?"

He looked at Charlie and Charlie looked back at him in that knowing way. Charlie raised his eyebrows, well what passes for eyebrows on a dog. Charlie smiled. Did I mention Charlie could smile? He did.

"You know," I said. "It's bad enough that you dragged me out of bed at this hour by telling me there was an emergency, when there obviously isn't, but if you and that dog are going to sit there having your private little joke at my expense, I'm leaving."

"He's always been like this in the morning," John said to Charlie. They exchanged more knowing looks.

"You should feel honored that you're the first person we chose to share this with," John said to me.

"What is it you want to share?" I asked.

John's face lit up like the kid who just found the pony under the Christmas tree. "Are you ready for this!" he said and paused for dramatic effect.

I waited.

"Charlie can talk!" He waited, watching my face for a reaction.

"I told you," Georgia called from the living room.

"Charlie can talk?" I asked incredulously.

"Yup." John grinned at Charlie and then me. Charlie grinned back.

I immediately thought of the classic cartoon about the guy who finds the frog that can sing and dance, only it won't sing and dance when anyone is around. It's one of my favorite cartoons.

"But he only does it when no one is around?" I asked suspiciously.

"No. He'll talk in front of almost anyone," John said.

I drained my coffee cup and studied Charlie. He was a nice looking dog and a friendly dog. I liked Charlie most of the time, except when he got that smug look on his face once in a while. In our family, dogs are considered family members, but this was stretching it. Charlie didn't have a coffee cup to drain. He just sat and studied me.

"Well, why didn't you have Charlie call me with the good news this morning?" I asked and didn't try to hide my sarcasm.

"He hasn't learned how to use the phone yet," John said.

"Okay, John, and Charlie," I said, "Let's hear it, speak boy."

First Charlie looked at me and then he looked at John.

John said, "He's a little shy and needs a little help to get going sometimes. It's better if I ask him questions."

"Okay, sure, why not?" I said. I got up and refilled my coffee cup. That gave me an idea. Uncle Stan sometimes came by in the morning and he and John had Irish coffee together. Sometimes they had lots of Irish coffee together. I didn't see a whiskey bottle in sight, but you never know.

"Has Uncle Stan been here?" I asked. "Have you guys been hitting the Irish coffee again?"

"Don't be ridiculous. Have a seat and watch this," John said.

When I was resettled in my seat, John said, "Okay Charlie, how old are you?"

Charlie said, "Er-roo-roo." Then he smiled and panted.

"See," John said and beamed at Charlie like a parent who just watched his seven year old play the Nutcracker Suite on the piano.

"What did he say?" I asked.

"He said five and a half, Bill," John said, disappointment creeping into his voice.

"Sorry, I missed it. It sounded like he said er-roo-roo, to me," I said.

John sighed. "Okay, Charlie, tell Bill who is president of the United States."

Charlie said, "Er-roo-roo." Then he looked at me and I swear he winked.

"See?" John said.

"Still sounds like er-roo-roo to me," I said.

"Gee, Bill, will you listen for heaven's sake!" John said. "I'm sorry," he said to Charlie and rolled his eyes. "Okay boy, what's five plus five?"


"He never was too good at math," John explained to me. "No," he said to Charlie, "It's ten, but that was close."

"John," I said. "Everything he says sounds like er-roo-roo."

"Well, Bill, he's part German Shepherd. What do you expect?"

"Eh?" I asked, failing to comprehend.

"He has a little accent," John explained.


"German," John said. "He has a little German accent."

"John, why would a dog born and raised in the United States have a German accent?" I asked.

"Maybe he picked it up from his parents," John said and shrugged.

"Well greyhounds usually say roo roo," I said. "He sounds more like a greyhound to me."

Once again, John grinned proudly. He said, "Well, I never thought of that. You know what? I think you're right, he's bi-lingual, too!"

"You really believe your dog can talk, don't you, John?" I asked.

"What do you mean, I believe it? Of course I believe it, you heard it yourself," he said.

"I heard your dog making dog sounds," I said.

"You should hear him do imitations," John said. "Show him, Charlie."

Charlie said, "Er-roo-roo-roo-er."

"Well that was certainly different," I said sarcastically. "Who was that, John Wayne?"

"Very funny," John said and chuckled. "It was the poodle next door. You can't understand him because you don't want to believe a dog can talk and might be as smart as you," he said in exasperation.

Charlie said, "Er-roo-roo."

"You're right, I'm sorry, Charlie," John said.

"What did he say?" I asked suspiciously.

"Never mind, Bill," John said.

"Did he just say he was smarter than me?" I demanded. "I didn't like the tone of his voice."

"It doesn't matter. I'm sure he didn't mean it, Bill, he's just getting frustrated, that's all. But this proves one thing doesn't it?" John said.

"What's that?" I asked.

"You understood him that time, didn't you?"

"Call me when fishing season starts," I said and headed for the door.

Charlie said, "Er-roo-roo."

"Same to you, Charlie," I said and left.

About the Author

You can read about the adventures of Lacey Blue Days, the greyhound and all Bill Hart's stories at

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Some of My Favorite People are Dogs

Bill Hart

In my family we consider pets family members. This practice can be a little confusing for strangers when I tell them that my niece Jetta is twelve years old and usually carries a tennis ball in her mouth. Jetta is a twelve year old Labrador Retriever, but if I don't mention that fact, the bit about the tennis ball can raise eyebrows.

At the other end of the age spectrum is Karma, my four month old granddaughter, who loves to chew on just about anything and romps around the backyard at full speed until she runs out of energy and falls asleep. Karma is also a Lab. There are other family members who are not of the Lab persuasion, for instance, there is Bennie. Unfortunately, Bennie has a thing for catching birds so I have to be vigilant and shoo him off the deck when the birds come to eat. According to his vet charts, Bennie is a short haired cat of undetermined, though probably mixed, breed.

In my opinion, Bennie also leads a charmed life. If the average cat has nine lives, Bennie has thirty nine. He is white with black patches and loves to hang out in the wild grass fields around the house. These are the same fields that our local osprey and eagles hunt regularly. Bennie's distinctive white coat stands out like a beacon in the green and brown grass and yet, the eagles pass him by day after day, month after month, as do the coyotes and other predators.

His owners have tried to keep him indoors for his own protection, but he is miserable when not allowed to roam freely. There are two kinds of cats in this world, outside cats and inside cats. Bennie is the former, a guy who just can't stay indoors. It's not like we are afraid of Bennie getting lost, we can always easily find him because he stands out like a white cat in a green world.

My grandson Pyro weighs seven pounds and likes to float around in the pool on an inflatable float. He also thinks he weighs two hundred pounds and is the toughest dog in the world. If ever there was a classic case of the Napoleon Complex, it is Pyro. He insists on wearing a tee shirt whenever he goes outside, unless he is going in the pool, that is. He also likes to wear boots that originally belonged to his friend Peaches, a Chihuahua who doesn't care for footwear. Pyro is a miniature Australian Shepherd with strange white eyes. He could double as Chupacabra in a horror movie if not for his diminutive size.

My grandson Kash is a huge Cane Corso who lives in the same house with Pyro. Unfortunately, for Kash, he arrived after Pyro was already established, so he is constantly harassed by Pyro. Pyro likes to hide Kash's toys under the couch where Kash can't reach them. Pyro also likes to lie on Kash's bed and when Kash whines and tries to get him off the bed, he does his wild eyed Chupacabra thing and says in dogspeak, "You talking to me? Are you talking to me!" I am sure that somewhere in his little doggie brain, Pyro has a plan to conquer the world and this time, he won't make the mistake of invading Russia.

There are many more animals in the family and each one has his or her own distinctive personality that brings much happiness and pleasure into our lives. Life just wouldn't be the same without them and like they say, "You can't pick your relatives, but you can pick your pets."

Lenny, the Problem Woodpecker – A Guide For Parents

Bill Hart

I sit at my desk and write every day, while just a few feet away, on the deck outside the window, hundreds of birds come to feed. There are hummingbird feeders, suet feeders, sunflower towers, and various seed feeders as well as the seeds I spread on the railing and deck. I used to put corn and other treats out for a young raccoon named, Bruce, but that is another story and we'll stick to this one as long as we can.

Needless to say, the birds and I have gotten to know each other over the months and years. I usually don't gossip about them, but I just had to tell someone about Lenny, especially those folks who might be considering parenthood.

One of the nice things about watching my feathered friends is that I get to meet the whole family, when they eventually bring their young to the deck to teach them how to fend for themselves. That is how I came to know Lenny. Lenny may or may not be his given name, obviously, since I don't speak fluent woodpecker, I've never been able to ask them. For reasons that I'd rather not go into, however, I call him Lenny.

Lenny is a Hairy Woodpecker. That's not a criticism, it is a statement of fact. Though I can't see any hairs on him, that is what his species is called, unless you happen to be a Latin scholar, ornithologist, or nitpicker, in which case you might call him Picoides villosus. I'll leave that up to you. If anyone would like to dispute these facts, please address your correspondence to the publishers of the, "National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds (Eastern Region)."

You might think it pleasant to sit and write while just outside the birds are feeding and going about their business, but it can be distracting and sometimes downright bothersome to have all that chirping and fighting going on outside, yes fighting. Even the peaceful doves like to mix it up once in a while, but I am getting off on a tangent again.

Lenny showed up a few months ago and his mother stood beside the suet feeder, conveniently located on the railing of the deck (a little too convenient for Bennie the cat who occasionally has to be shooed away). While Mother stood beside the suet she took great beakfuls of suet and placed them into Lenny's beak as quickly as she could. I think I should mention that Lenny is larger than both his parents. As I said before, I don't like to gossip, but Lenny is on the plump side. Considering the way his poor mother was shoveling the suet into him, I can see why he is so large.

Father showed up and gave Mother a rest. Father stood beside the suet and shoveled as fast as he could, but not fast enough for the demanding ingrate Lenny who would loudly complain with a "Neep!" whenever they showed the least sign of flagging in the stretch, so to speak. According to the NASFGTNAB the hairy woodpecker makes a loud, "Peek," sound. That may well be, but Lenny says, "Neep." Perhaps he has a speech impediment or that is some new woodpecker slang, you know how kids are. Whatever the case may be, he has an annoying voice and loudly cries, "Neep!" whenever he doesn't get exactly what he wants.

I am sure his parent's intention was to teach him how to feed himself, however, he was insistent that they keep feeding him. When they didn't move fast enough for him he would help himself to a beak full of suet and with his beak still half full, loudly cry, "Neep!" This went on for hours and days. Finally, Father no longer came to the feeder with Lenny, but Mother, bless her, soldiered on, perhaps hoping he would eventually get it. When Mother took a break to grab a quick mouthful for herself, Lenny became irate and loudly cried, "NEEP!'"

Sometimes Mother would refuse to feed him and Lenny would play on her sympathy when his cries were ignored. He would go around to the side of the feeder where there is a plastic window that allows one to see the seeds inside and peck at the plastic. The seeds automatically slide out onto a tray at the bottom of the feeder and Lenny would literally be standing in the seeds while he desperately pecked at the plastic trying to get at the seeds. “Look at this, Ma, your baby is starving and it's all your fault.”

When poor old Mother could stand it no longer, her heart breaking, she would make a resigned, "Peek," and take a beak full of suet and offer it to Lenny. He would then hop to her side and take up his position and the shoveling would begin anew.

According to the guide book, the Hairy Woodpecker lays four white eggs in a hole in a tree. This is troubling because Mother and Father only seem to have one child. Do you mean to tell me Lenny was the keeper? What happened to eggs, two, three, and four? That may well have been what Mother and Father asked one day when they came home and found an even fatter Lenny sitting in the hole all alone.

It would have been interesting to watch the drama as Mother and Father first pushed Lenny out of the nest. I am sure that is exactly what they had to do. He doesn't seem like what they used to call a go-getter. What a Herculean struggle it must have been with Mother pulling from in front and Father pushing from behind as the great lummox Lenny dug his toes in and refused to budge.

As I watched the dysfunctional family of woodpeckers, I thought of the people I have known over the years. I've known some Lennys in my time. You may have known some as well, or perhaps you even had a Lenny for a child. You may have even been a Lenny, yourself. I know there are whole books about children who refuse to leave the nest. Unfortunately, woodpeckers can't read, but Mr. and Mrs. Woodpecker did finally find something that worked. They left. They probably flew away in the night and didn't leave a forwarding address.

One day Lenny showed up alone and made his pitiful and annoying, "NEEP!" sound for what seemed like hours. Though he carried on something chronic, as they say, Mother and Father were gone. That was weeks ago and Lenny spends a lot of time here on the deck. He has slimmed down somewhat and manages to feed himself, but he still seems to be challenged in certain areas. For instance, he sometimes tries to land on the sunflower seed tower with disastrous results.

He bangs and pecks away at the deck railing. Trust me Lenny, there are no insects hidden in the deck railing. I consulted the guide and it says that a Hairy Woodpecker will hammer on a dead limb as part of its courtship ritual and to let everyone know that it is staking a claim to that territory. Fortunately, so far, no female woodpeckers have answered Lenny's staccato personal ad. One can only wonder what the upshot of a union of Lenny, with any woodpecker dim enough to find him attractive, would be like?

I realize that woodpeckers have incredibly hard heads and are quite durable, but there must be a limit. Yesterday I heard a strange metallic sound and looked outside to investigate. There on the telephone pole was Lenny, banging away at a metal fitting. I think his parents made the right decision, don't you?