Baby Geordie was a dynamo with more energy than I knew how to deal with. When I took him to dog school, they recommended that during the winter, we humans get a book of tricks and keep our pups busy indoors during the bad weather. Geordie learned every trick in the book (literally) so quickly that I had to make up new ones to keep him busy. One thing I tried was flashcards.
I didn’t know if a dog could learn to read or not, but I thought I would give it a try. I started out with The letters A and G because they looked dissimilar. I told him “A as in Adventure”* and “G as in Geordie”. He quickly learned those, so I kept adding more.
Again, I didn’t know if he might eventually sound out words like little humans do or if he would learn each word as its own unique symbol. In case it was the first way, I taught him phonetically. It turned out the second way, though. When you see Geordie’s flashcards, it will look like I don’t know how to spell.
I don’t have a YouTube account, so I posted a video of Geordie doing flashcards on my website. Geordie Doing Flashcards. It is at the bottom of the page if you keep scrolling. (In the photo to the left of it, I am holding the cards for “jump” and “kitty”.)
Over the years, we built up quite a huge stack of flashcards, and Geordie learned an astonishing number of concepts. Rather than using “dog language”, Geordie preferred to use English. He insisted I teach him the word for everything in his environment.
Whenever I mention Geordie talking to me or telling me something, I don’t mean a Son of Sam scenario. If Geordie wanted to tell me something, he would poke me in the leg to get my attention. Then he would make eye contact, heave a big sigh, sit down and stick out his lower teeth. At that point I would start asking him questions, and he would either nod yes or shake his head no or he would point to something (indicate direction or gesture toward an object) or he would tap one of those cards. So many people were surprised when they would ask Geordie a question, and he would answer. Around here he was known as Geordie the Talking Dog.
Before I got sick and my world fell apart, I had studied to be an English as a Second Language teacher. I never got the opportunity to teach humans, but working with Geordie allowed me to use many of those skills.
I don’t need words to tell you I like pumpkin!
- I realized early on that Geordie picked up on English very quickly, so I never talked to him about “Going for a ride” or “Going in the car”. I didn’t want to accidentally perk his ears up. Instead I used the word Adventure which I rarely use in general conversation.