I Swear My Dog Speaks English

Murphy, our Australian Cattle Dog (Red Heeler) mix, joined our family as a 10-week-old rescue. Within a week of bringing of her home, I promptly skipped the country for several days, leaving Jack to make the startling solo discovery that Murphy is part Velociraptor.

I distinctly remember calling Jack from my lodge in Kenya (long story), and hearing, “I don’t know about this dog, Kelley” and “I think we’ve made a mistake, here.”

Heelers are a herding breed, designed to nip at cattle to get them moving. “Nip,” is relative; as a puppy, Murphy was all teeth, all the time. We used frisbees as shields and purchased dollar-bin stuffed toys for her shredding amusement. Now two years old, her teeth come out on two occasions:

  • When she’s tired.
  • When she needs to poop.

At least once a day, Murphy receives a scolding, “MURPHY GRACE! PUT YOUR TEETH AWAY.” That rarely works, of course. What does work is this:

  • Me: “Hey, Murphy I have a question.”
  • Murphy: Tilts head to the side and waits.
  • Me: “Are you ready for bed?” or “Do you need to poop, or what?” 

If she’s tired, she trots down the hall and jumps up on my bed. If she needs to poop, she saunters to the front door. You can almost hear thinking, “For crying out loud, hoomans. Why do I have to use my teeth before you’ll pay attention to my needs?”

Occasionally, the Velociraptor takes awhile to settle down at bedtime. (She’s not unlike a challenging toddler, really.) In that case, the conversation goes like this:

  • Me: “Hey, sweet girl. Do you need some music?”
  • Murphy: Tilts head to the side and waits.
  • Me: Launches My Favorite Coffeehouse playlist on Spotify.
  • Murphy: Falls asleep.

I know you think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. She also digs Mumford & Sons, and just tonight I introduced her to The Civil Wars. She seems to like them.

Murphy is the strangest dog I’ve had. She’s tragically aloof—the kind of dog who’ll move to the couch if you dare sit by her on the loveseat. She has a mean side-eye, something for which cattle dogs are widely recognized, as it turns out. If she’s frustrated or overwhelmed, she’ll scold you. She’s crazy smart but will do nothing without receiving a treat for it. This, I know, is a human problem, not a dog problem. She has me well-trained.

Aaaaand I just remembered I wrote about this dog a week ago. Well, at least you didn’t have to hear about my bathroom again. (Whoops.)