We just discovered a new book about Goldens and body language, written by Fred Haney. It looks to be a wonderful addition, even though this story is tinged with the bittersweet as the depicted Golden in the book died from lymphoma shortly after its publication.
Fred Haney considers himself lucky to have had a pet as sensitive and expressive as Jamie. He’s also fortunate that his work as a high-tech angel investor allows him to spend time in his home office, so that he can observe Jamie, and his other pets, in all kinds of daily situations.
Fred became aware of Jamie’s dog talk when she was about five years old. Realizing that Jamie was expressing herself frequently with her dog body language, he tried to become a better “listener,” which, of course, made Jamie better at dog talk. In his daily life, Fred spends a lot of time nurturing entrepreneurs. He never dreamed he’d be cultivating his Golden Retriever’s communication skills.
Analytic by nature (his Ph.D. is in Computer Sciences, from Carnegie-Mellon University), Fred began to see patterns in Jamie’s messages. In 2001, he started to capture Jamie’s dog body language in a collection of golden retriever pictures. By 2004, he had assembled hundreds of images, and, he began writing brief stories about them. The result is My Doggie Says…
Here is a wonderful article that appeared about the book:
Is your dog talking to you?
Probably, says the author of a new book, but you have to know how to listen.
By Melissa Heckscher, Daily Breeze Staff Writer
A golden retriever whose strawberry blond face had grown powdery white by the time she was 12, Jamie (short for “Donnor’s Jameson del Campo”) had a fancy for tug of war, liked to chew on champagne corks and loved — really, really loved — her rainbow-colored stuffed basketball.
How could her owner, Fred Haney of Palos Verdes Estates, know all this? She told him. Well, she told him as clearly as a dog can tell anyone anything about tug of war … corks … or a basketball.
“I’m not saying that I think Jamie is unique among dogs,” said Haney, who recently self-published My Doggie Says … Messages From Jamie, a book chronicling various “messages” from the beloved brown-eyed dog who died just before Christmas, shortly after the book was released in local stores. “On the other hand,” he added, looking over toward his sofa where a framed photo of Jamie sits propped up by a pillow, “she may have had a little more of an inclination to communicate, and it may be partly because we reinforced it.”
In the 90-page full-color book, Haney presents a photo-illustrated guide to Jamie’s every move, bark and whimper. Readers shouldn’t be surprised to see that her missives are the “I’d like to go outside now” and “I want my squeaky toy” sort of statements that don’t require canine-mind reading to understand.
It’s not altogether groundbreaking; but then, Haney didn’t mean for it to be. He only wanted people to learn how to pay attention to their pets. “I think there’s more going on here than people understand,” he said. “You’ve read scientific articles about, ‘Are animals smart? Can animals think?’ And they always conclude, ‘Well, they can’t do a Rubik’s cube, so they must be stupid.’ But I just have a feeling that animals aren’t that far behind us, and maybe they’re a little brighter and have more emotional dimension and intelligence than we give them credit for.”
Haney started transcribing Jamie’s messages about five years ago when he awoke to her standing — her face inches from his — beside the bed he shares with his wife, Barbara. “She made a ‘wuuf’ sound and pawed at the bed,” Haney wrote in the book. “My dog was talking to me!”
Haney supposed that in some canine-to-human dialect, Jamie was trying to say: “Lift me up onto the bed, please.” “At that moment, I vowed to ‘tune in’ to the messages Jamie was sending,” he wrote. And he did. Camera in hand, Haney observed as Jamie played with other dogs, took naps with Okie-Dokie, the family cat, and eagerly tagged along on daily errands. He noticed when she moped over losing her favorite stuffed ball, when she shivered with fear at the sound of thunder, and how she appeared disgusted when Okie-Dokie dragged dead mice into the house.
After five years of watching and photographing Jamie, Haney put together the book. In it, he chose 87 photos and an assortment of Jamie-speak, including “If I lie across the hallway, maybe you’ll stay home”; “I know you’re getting ready to travel; I hope I get to go”; “I’m upset you were away so long, so I’m going to destroy my toy.”
And so on.
“It’s easy to start to think, ‘Well, this animal really has feelings and this animal has emotions and he’s really bonded and connected,’ but maybe all she was about was getting fed every day,” Haney said. “But it felt very similar to a relationship with a person. She was really a part of our family.”
Which made it all the more difficult when last fall, Jamie was diagnosed with lymphoma. She died Dec. 20 at age 12. “She had already gone to two book signings,” Barbara Haney said, her voice wavering with emotion. “And one of the last things our vet said to us was, ‘Well you’ve immortalized Jamie in the book. The timing was almost providential.’”
When Jamie died, the Haneys’ daughter-in-law, Karen, wrote a farewell letter on behalf of the dog. It was a letter “from Jamie,” and it said: “When I got here in doggie heaven, everybody already knows about me because they read the book.”
Jamie’s Rules for a Good Life
• Don’t bark if a “wuuf” will do the job.
• It’s OK to be afraid sometimes.
• Have a favorite toy.
• Share your favorite toy with others.
• Play by the rules even when there’s no referee.
• Get out of the house when you can.
• Chase lizards and squirrels when you can.
• Rest when you’re tired.
• Be gentle with children.
• Ask for the things you need.
• Drink lots of water when you go running.
• Go places where they treat you well.
• Make people feel good when you greet them.
• Be true to your nature.