You Dog You: Teaching an Old Dog new tricks

Posted by on 01.28.08 | 6 Comments
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Wrote a blog post last week about fostering a Siberian Husky+?? mix formerly named Geronimo, according to the distracted and distraught owner who dropped him off in a frightful hurry. Well, Geronimo is almost stone-deaf, doesn’t seem to know his name, or any other English words, so at the ripe age of 9 years, we’re scouting around for a new name that better suits him. We’ve come up with ‘You Dog You’. What do you think?

Here’s the story behind the name. When my niece Dione, who is now 26 and all grown up with a baby of her own, was about 6 years old and in 1st grade, she was attending a Christian day school. Her mother, my sister, was a single parent, so Dione spent a great deal of time at my home. The language her mother used was somewhat different than the language I and my husband Richard used, which were both different than the language at the parochial school! It was a tad confusing for the kid, bright as she was, and still is. So, after she got in minor trouble for using a slang word (‘darn’ I think it was) at school, she came home one day, a little upset about it, saying that ‘you and Mommy say ‘darn’–why can’t I say it’? So I devised a plan, knowing that I wasn’t about to change my language to meet the requirements of the school.

So I said something like, “D, why don’t we make up a grid that helps you understand which words you can say where?” She liked the idea and we set out to make it happen. We had a grid for words you can only say at home or at Aunt Beth’s, words for exclamation that would be appropriate for school, and words you should never, ever call someone or say. We talked about it all at some length, and then she would write in the grids the words or phrases for each category. It was very cute, and I remember my heart being touched by watching her trying to figure out the complex world of adults and the language they use. We left the category of ‘what you don’t ever call or say to anyone, ever’ until last. After much thought, and without really discussing it with me, she wrote, “You dog you”. Well, I don’t think I was able to contain my delight, and I’m quite sure I told her how appropriate her choice was.

I saved that paper somewhere, and I’ve certainly stored the story away to be told, low and behold, these 20 years later, on the Virtual Tea House!

Why are we now calling the former Geronimo “You Dog You”? It seems to fit somehow. I think I need to get Dione’s permission, though, so I’ll do that today.

Here’s a chant for me, for You Dog You, and anyone else who wants to know their true name, sung by Thich Nhat Hanh on a lovely CD I listened to once upon a time:

“Please call me by my true names.
Please call me by my true names.
So I can wake up
Wake up
And the doors of my heart can be left open
The doors of compassion.”

Gotta go walk You Dog You through 8 inches of new beautiful snow here in Central Oregon. Being a Husky and all, he’s in his element and needs no language other than his lovely wagging tail and bouncy step on his long wolf-like (?!) legs to tell me about it!

So you might be wondering who the old dog is that is learning new tricks? I keep asking myself that as well.

Beth, VTH Host and You Dog You Walker

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