Anyone who has typed the words “talking dog” or “talking cat” into a search engine — and who among us has not? — is already aware of the remarkable communication skills many dogs and, to a lesser extent, cats have.
Watch Bastion, a feisty border terrier, tap “Alexa, play music for dogs” on his doggy keyboard. He’s literally one step away from ordering his own toys. There’s also Bunny, a cerebral standard poodle who will say, “Love you” unprompted, but will also narc “Dad went poop.” She truly astounds when she gazes at the ocean before typing “Where is yesterday?” Unsurprisingly, Bunny already has her own line of merch.
I have often looked up from my phone after watching a dozen (or a couple of dozen) of these enthralling videos to stare intently into the eyes of my own dog, Sofia, a rescue mutt of a certain age.
Do I not already know all the thoughts in her head? Can I not anticipate her every specific desire, from which pillow to sleep upon to which direction she’d prefer to walk on Commercial Street? (Answer: west.)
If you ask my dog a question, I can answer it for her with confidence, and I think most pet owners feel the same way. I set out along Shank Painter Road in the direction of the Bark Park to investigate.
Julie Wheeler joined me in a booth at the back of Mac’s Fish House. Tucked under one arm was Minnie Pearl. Bigger than a Chihuahua and smaller than a border terrier, Minnie is a black-and-white mix of total adorableness. Rescued from the mean streets of Little Rock, Ark., she eventually made her way to Last Hope K9 in Boston.
Wheeler, a local musician, was lovestruck immediately but found herself in line behind two hetero couples. That’s when the rescue worker told them that Minnie was afraid of men.
“No men!” cried Wheeler, and another great human-dog partnership began. “Finally,” Wheeler said, “being a lesbian was an advantage.”
I asked Wheeler to close her eyes and allow Minnie Pearl’s answers to my questions flow.
“You’re buying the drinks, right?” asked Wheeler.
“Yes,” I said. “For science.”
Wheeler closed her eyes and said she was ready.
“Minnie Pearl,” I asked, “what advice would you give another small dog coming to Provincetown for the first time?”
“Avoid Commercial Street,” she said. Wheeler’s voice has taken on an Arkansas accent, pitched really high, like if Linda Tripp swallowed helium.
“And pass up all those free treats from shopkeepers?” I asked.
“Way too many feet,” said Minnie. “Someone could step on me and crush me like a peanut.”
“What about all the water bowls?”
“I do not drink from public water bowls — no, sir,” said Minnie. “Those are not my manners. I will sniff them, yes, but drink? No. Momma carries my water. Treats, on the other hand, I will partake.”
After a drink of water from her personal water bottle and some scritches around the ears, Minnie was ready to keep talking. I asked her to imagine a perfect day in Provincetown.
“It begins on the beach in front of the Harbor Hotel at low tide. That’s your best chance to find a dead bird.” Minnie pauses to appreciate the scent of clam chowder coming from the kitchen. “I love a dead bird. I really do, specifically seagulls. I love to roll on them. It is why they are born, probably.
“Then, it’s straight to the dog park,” continues Minnie, climbing up onto Wheeler’s lap. “My best friend goes there. His name is Azwell. He’s a little bit bigger than me, and a boy, but he’s not toxic. Can I just add here that I oppose the planned roundabout near my park? Too much honking.”
Where does Minnie recommend putting her paws to pavement for an extended stretch?
“We don’t do long walks,” said Minnie, touching her nose to Wheeler’s shoulder. “My Momma needs a kidney, so she gets real tired. We can’t go on trips to new dog parks, either, until she finds a blood-type-O kidney donor. But I sit with her for however long it takes until she feels better. It’s what I’m here for.”
“It’s magical, really,” said Wheeler, “how much better she makes me feel when I bury my face in her fur.”
“Anyway,” said Minnie, “after that, I recommend you find a nice couch and call it a day, which is what I’m going to do right now, Mister Man. Goodbye.”