Kiera, my Australian Shepherd, has a vocabulary of a hundred or so individual words and a couple dozen expressions — last time I counted. On the one hand it makes life much easier for me. For instance, I can just tell her to go get Cait for dinner, instead of yelling upstairs. Or I can ask her to help me find my other shoe that Graidy, my Border Collie mix, has hidden somewhere. The “helpful” list goes on and on. There are also those times when it can be a real pain in the derriere. This was one of those instances:

Kiera, lying quietly in her favorite cool spot by the sliding door, tracked me with her eyes as I walked into the family room to see what my teenage daughter was up to.

“Cait, do you want to come for a ‘W’ with me?” I asked.

As with a young child, when we don’t want Kiera to understand what we’re saying, we revert to spelling or just using the first letter of the word.

“Are you going to take ‘K’?” Cait asked in return.

I knew if I said yes, she wouldn’t want to come because Kiera likes to go fast, and Cait likes to saunter. And I wanted Cait to get some fresh air.

“I think Dad’s taking her for an ‘R’ later,” I answered.

My husband, Andrew, walked into the hallway from his study upstairs and looked down to see what we were planning.

“Are you guys taking Kiera for a walk?” he asked.

Kiera sprang to her feet, hearing the ‘K’ and ‘W’ words spoken in one sentence.

“Shhhh,” I practically spit. But not in time.

“Because I was going to take her for a run later.”

Oh great. And now the ‘R’ word. Kiera was doing leaping spins in the air as she ran over to us. Wiggling butt. Happy dog dance. Joyous jumps. You get the idea. Nobody was going to get out of the house without her now.

“Thanks,” I said to Andrew with mild annoyance.

Andrew leaned over to see why I was miffed.

“Oh,” he said, seeing Kiera’s happy, expectant face. “Sorry. I didn’t realize she was right there; I thought she was outside.”

With the beans spilled, so to speak, there was only one thing to do. I said, “Kiera, do you want to go for a walk or a run?”

Kiera glanced from the leash on the coat rack to me, and then she very deliberately moved over to Andrew’s running shoes by the door. She first looked up at Andrew and then to the shoes and back to Andrew and then to the shoes…

Andrew and I both looked at each other and chuckled.

“Looks like you’re up,” I said.

And away they went…


Finn always likes to be right where the action is. Graidy, on the other hand, prefers to get as far away from the front door as he can. He’s not interested in going anywhere. He’s my home boy.