Dog Humor

Smile When You Say That, Companion

An otherwise educated person once told me that dogs don't smile. "It's classic anthropomorphism. It just looks like a smile," he added wisely. I never trusted his smile much, actually. I prefer to think it's evolution, the dog learning to smile.

Bark: What a great magazine! The articles are about living with and understanding dogs, not just obedience theories or "What puppy should you think about buying this month?" If you have a dog, you will enjoy this magazine.

Anyone who doesn't understand that dogs smile is living in a pallid world. Dogs don't just smile; they play jokes and they are amused. That is the only connective in this page, the notion of dog humor.

You might expect a collection of human jokes with dogs in them. If so, sorry to disappoint. I can offer my favorite dog "joke" in that sense. It's not meant to be funny, exactly. It was passed along to me by one of my best friends. It's about dogs in in Heaven.

I have two sorts of humor to offer here. The first is examples of dogs joking, all of them real jokes that Crom played on me and others. Their point is to demonstrate that dogs have a sense of humor. The others are jokes I've told in Crom's name, jokes he would tell, if he could speak. A running gag throughout his life was that Crom talked and even wrote email, with the help of a spell checker he had undue confidence in. Silly, but harmless and fun.

Crom Playing Jokes

His favorite joke seemed to be "I'm a puppy." The humor depended on the fact that the "puppy" weighed 130 pounds, had the heart of lion and the gentle spirit of a good draft horse, and "knew karate" (a year of security training). I saw the game many times. His best partner was a female friend who loved to play with him while I made dinner. She would get down on her hands and knees and challenge him, growling and lunging. He would scamper away "skeered" as often as he challenged back. Sometimes the game got a bit rough. Once I heard a thud and looked out into the living room. He was standing over her, looking worried; she was splayed on the floor like a cartoon crash victim. She got up when she heard me coming. They had collided head-on.

The puppy game usually took the form of "Eek! I'm a scared little puppy." She would menace him and he would run away with the ungainly desperation of a puppy fleeing to safety. Given that this was a dog with the grace of a ballet dancer, the effect was pretty funny.

Some jokes were one-liners. He was taught that he could have socks that were given to him. When a pair of socks were ready to be passed on, I would knot them together, preferably without washing them (dog values are different from guy values, y'know?), and toss them to him. He learned quickly that these were his socks and others, well, weren't. His respect for the privacy of my open sock bin in the clothes closet was absolute, all his life. This was so clear and consistent that what follows can only be a joke.

I was working at the computer, Saturday morning, past walk time. I heard behind me the dog equivalent of a throat being cleared. He was sitting precisely as a soldier, a pair of my clean socks, which he had carefully selected from the open storage shelf in my bedroom closet, draped across his jaw like a limp newspaper. And he was grinning like a maniac. The message was unambiguous: "You want these socks, buster, you better come use 'em!"

One of Crom's best jokes was a "practical joke" he enjoyed more than the victim. We were in the back yard, as we were most evenings. By way of explanation, let me add that he hated skateboards with a passion. We had finally agreed that he would not eat skateboarders (or bicyclers or in-line skaters), although it is true that they are wierd and noisome in the sight of the Lord. But that just curtailed the demonstrations of disapproval, his loathing for these squeaky, moving-without-using-their-feet people remained. Squeaky and weird was too much.

One evening, while we were outside enjoying a bone, a skateboarder came by on the sidewalk outside our six-foot cedar-stake fence.

Not funny, but very touching, this little coffee table book tells the story of rescuing the pets of New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina raised our awareness of the reponsibility to care for the animals who trust us. Not Left Behind documents the efforts of Best Friends Animal Society to save animals abandoned in the disasters of the hurricane.

All we could see was the top of his head, a backward cap sailing along the top of the fence, accompanied by the characteristic squeaky rattle of composite wheels on concrete. Crom ran quietly to the fence. He tracked alongside the skateboarder, who neither saw nor heard him. Then he stopped, issued one of his grand, basso ("Marty Talevala") barks, and the cap "hopped" about two inches. Crom looked over at me with an expression that could only be called mischievous.

Weirdness was always an issue with him. His human girlfriend once took him skating, which changed his mind about that particular weirdness. But weirdness was always an issue. He worried about two-headed humans, even when one of the heads was obviously a toddler's. He never forgave my neighbor for appearing to be nine feet tall (speaking to us over the fence from the height of his deck). Once, walking in Memory Park in SLC, we came upon a guy sleeping on a bench, wearing an Oakland Raiders uniform but with a four-foot scarf on his head in lieu of helmet. Crom made a broad circle around the guy, watching for the wrong move. The guy slept on, oblivious to judgment.

On a walk in Liberty Park, we were minding our own business when Crom stopped in his tracks, like emergency brakes applied, and stared across the green. A hundred yards away was a man in a black gi moving as if under water. Tai chi exercises. Crom stared at him, immobilized, for at least ten seconds. Then he issued a bark of disapproval, one basso imprecation, and we moved on. When he barked, everyone within earshot jumped... except the tai chi man, who moved slowly toward the completion of his routine.

Cujoooh! Cujoooh!!!

Racist or not, people respond to a huge black dog with wariness. I find it mildly amusing that the two neighborhood walkers who used to cross the street to avoid Crom think the new kid, 90-lb Link, is "cute." Link is a year old, a careless mouther and jumper up. But he's young and carmel-colored and bouncy, so he's "cute." Whatever.

Crom and I played three games that made fun of the stereotypes. The first, which came along when he was a puppy, was "Cujo!" I would cry, "Cujo! Cujo!" and he would lunge at me, all ferocious forty pounds of him, feinting and snarling. I would whimper "Mr. Dog! Mr. Dog! Oh please don't hurt me!" and he, miraculously, wouldn't. We only played this game at home; the occasional stranger observing it would back off warily. Once the favorite girlfriend (she of the head-on collision above) watched; in a lull, she said to me, "That was you growling! I thought it was him."

By then "Cujo" may have modulated into its adult variant, "Teef!" Teef is a simple game. All it takes in a hand shaped into a claw and a call to action: "Teef teef teef!" The claw (adapted from a favorite moment in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) is placed menacingly in front of the dog nose and the dog responds by fencing with the threatening "teeth," using his own considerably more dangerous ones (opposable thumb notwithstanding). We played Teef into our last days, a bit less energetically, but with the same sense of fun.

Another game that evolved over the years from wild-ass teen craziness to nostalgic fun was the resentful leash attack. We would be walking and Crom would decide that he "hated" his leash. This was a bit bizarre, because we only played the game when he was not hitched to it. The next few moments were reminscient of Clouseau and Kato. He would turn on me, snarling a bit, and lunge at the leash. I would back away, startled, and try to keep it away from him. There he would be leaping and snarling and snatching at the leash, with me spinning and dodging silently, evading the savage dog. Finally I would drop the leash, and he would snatch it up, usually close to the buckle end (the buckle was the size of my thumb, but flatter) and give it a neckbreaking shake (which usually meant getting hit on the head with the buckle, the only part that made me flinch).

Let Me Tell It!

For the curious, here are some samples of Crom's email:

Icy Sum Skunks
We sought two skunks and it was fume. We walk to buy the lack, end there they were, to skunks in the grace. I smiled them first and wind to sea. They were tiny ear than kitty caps, end stand in with on nose south and on nose no earth. My dud said, "No" end I stop it, so not stint key. They lucked at us like puppies.
Cat Mix the Fence
I em stoved up. "Watt hopping!" you ax. It was dime two go bed, an Deadeye was seeping. But true bull was stinking at the kitsch in win dough, a nigh newt. It was smile of cat, in my bones! I rosed Poop from his leap, an weighted at the door. It was hard, an shaking but Iowa did. My bones! He said, "Whoa tea sit whoa tea sit?" Buddy cane. He turn done the light and realized me to due my due tea. Yukon sea the cat thought, "Stupid dog, he cant get out of glass." Boy was he slurp eyes.
Dead said, "That cat when from serial to sixteen know thyme." I a greed. But its along why to the back fens, an I all most got hymn. But I bout had a harp attic. (Donut tell the cat, oak hay?) An next morning I was limb ping on tool eggs. Rite front and left back, two bee eggs act. I took my meds like a god boy,
Link poses for the camera.

Link's humor tends to be less cerebral.

an gots lot of rest (an sum bones), but eye am still stove up.

One day, we stopped to sniff and talk to a young German shepherd. They were getting along fine; Crom is more avuncular than curmudgeonly. It was along Lowell, one of the busier streets in the neighborhood. Crom said to the kid, "Know what happens if you don't wait for cars?" ("Wait for cars" was our code for getting ready to cross the street.) The shepherd looked expectant. "You get to be a car pet!" Much grinning and wagging. Dog jokes.

And my personal favorite: I have this thick terrycloth bathrobe that I occasionally would drop on Crom. This is called making "The Sheep of Araby." One day I threw it over him and he was inspired. He started running around the room babbling, "I'm robid; I'm robid!" Then in case I didn't get it, he stopped, looked at me with menace in his eyes and snarled, "Fear me! I have robies!!!" Cujo reborn.

Dog humor. He cracked up the neighbor dogs with the story for days.


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