The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton is certain he heard his canine friend Emmy say 'hello'

For a few reasons, I’ve been thinking about talking dogs recently

Julian met 'talkative' Staffy Jake and is sure Emmy once said 'hello'.

A friend, who lives just down the road, happened to pass our house one evening this week.

We had not seen her for a while, through a combination of COVID restrictions and her elderly dog having recently been put to sleep just a few months earlier.

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We didn’t even come across each other on dog walks anymore. But she had a new dog on trial and he was pulling her along the road. I spotted her from the sitting room window, waved and rushed to the front door to catch up and have a chat.

Jake the Staffie was a rescue dog, as all Lindsey’s dogs had been over the years.

Kind and caring and devoted them, Lindsey was missing a canine companion, especially during the restrictions.

She had agreed to take Jake for a week to see if they were right for one another and this was the first time she’d taken him for a walk.

From the doorstep, Anne and I could catch up and meet the new dog from a safe distance. We naturally (?) assumed positions as if we were the apices of an isosceles triangle.

A sunny evening, with no beeper in my pocket and whilst catching up with an old friend, was a perfect excuse to open a bottle of wine.

Everyone was fraught under the current circumstances and this impromptu and al fresco rendez-vous was a welcome relief.

Conversation immediately turned to Jake. The oversized staffie’s tail wagged constantly and his open mouth wore a huge grin all the time. He was certainly endearing, but the most amusing thing about him were the talking noises he made all the time, as if trying to join in the conversation.

Jake’s conversational skills were undoubtedly impressive and reminded me of a recent episode when I’d, inexplicably, been fast asleep on the sofa one Saturday afternoon.

This occurrence is sufficiently rare to put it on a par with a lunar eclipse or other unusual celestial event, but fatigue had obviously caught up with me.

I’d apparently been asleep for an hour or more and I was bleary and confused when the dog wandered in and vigorously licked every part of my sleeping face that was poking out above the woolly blanket that was keeping me warm.

Emmy, the dog, who was as surprised as I was to find me reclined and inert in the daytime, then stretched and said “Hello,” in a matter of fact kind of way.

At least, I am fairly certain that she said “hello”. I called Anne to confirm the miracle. Emmy is very capable, but nobody had ever heard her talk before.

“The dog has just said ‘hello’!” I shouted, through a soporific haze, which was sufficient to confirm that it was some sort of hallucination or sleep-induced mistake on my part.

There are many other special skills that dogs have, some beyond the comprehension of us mere humans.

Recent research suggests that some dogs have the capability to sniff out certain types of cancer; some dogs can sense the onset of an epileptic seizure and I’ve heard various stories of dogs that predict the onset of seismic activity.

There is certainly a spectrum of canine sensory ability that transcends the human senses, some of which we are, no doubt, still to learn.

I looked at Emmy that sleepy afternoon, convinced she was about to launch into a full sentence.

But Jake the stocky staffie, on the sunny evening this week, did not exactly look like he was about to recite a Shakespearean sonnet. That said, he was considerably more verbose than the terrier on Esther Rantzen in the 1980s which, with such clarity, could only say “sausages”!