Letter to Piper by Don Herald

Friday, April 1, 2016
Labrador Maggie writes a letter to her boxer friend Piper giving hints on how to live with humans; by Don Herald.

Hello Piper:

You don't know me but I just felt that I had to drop you a line. Last night I overheard the humans who live with me talking about you coming to live with two other humans they know.

Since I'm older than you, I know a lot about training humans to live with dogs. So I thought I'd share some of my learning because you are still a Boxer puppy. Perhaps I can save you some valuable time playing your humans.

My name is Maggie. I'm a four year old Labrador Retriever. My colour is brown but most humans call it 'chocolate'. I'll be five years old when it gets very cold again outside. I weigh about 80 pounds soaking wet. I'm not sure what that is in kilos.

Speaking of wet, I just love to play and swim in water. When my humans are not at home, I drop my favourite toys into that water-keeping thing they call a 'toilet'. It's in a special space right next to their sleeping room.

I have my very own sleeping space. It's something my humans call a 'crate'. This is where I can go to be alone and chew on my male human's favourite sneakers when he isn't looking. My crate has a blanket over the top and three sides. Every human needs their privacy. Or so my female human often tells her male human.

When your humans talk in excited tones and are looking at you, always perk up your ears. It doesn't really matter what they are saying to you. They really believe you understand them. When this happens, most likely they will give you treat things which will probably be very yummy. More on treat things later.

By the way, a good trick is to wag your tail very fast. This seems to get their attention really quickly. When you are a pup, they call this tail wagging 'cute'. I know it's harder for a young Boxer like you to wag your tail because it's so short. But even little wiggles combined with lots of quick back and forth bum shakes seem to work quite well with humans!

Spend as much time as you can outside. But not when it's too cold on your paws and nose. Then it's better to stay inside where it's warm. You can jump up on their long sitting place and look out into the big green space that your humans call a 'park'. Parks have lots of very high sticks they call 'trees'. And lots of really big water-keeping places the humans call 'ponds' or 'lakes'.

The best time to get your humans to take you out is when they are in their sleeping place and it is very dark. Sneak into their sleeping room and jump up onto their resting place. They will be very surprised. Roll around on their sleeping blanket. Wipe your eyes on it too. Make lots of growling noises.

It's ok to nibble your sleeping humans' ears and fingers. Never bite though. When in their sleeping place, be careful nibbling on other things that you may find interesting. Especially on the male human. He will be very angry if you do. But the female human will probably laugh until she cries. Don't worry about her tears, Piper. I've discovered that she is really enjoying it. Those are happy tears.

In my experience it is very unlikely that you will get a treat for nibbling on your male human. But the female human will probably sneak you a treat when your male human leaves their sleeping space to sit on the water-keeping thing to check out what you nibbled on.

In spaces where humans live, there are sometimes other animals that look like small dogs but they are not. They are fun to chase. There is an animal the humans call 'cat', 'kitty' or some other silly sounding name. Cats have long fur, make purring not growling sounds and have curly tails. They run very fast and can easily climb sofas, drapes and even trees. If you are fast enough, you can catch them and give them a good shaking. Cats seem to like this a lot. But most humans don't like you to chase and shake cats. So don't try this when they are around and can see you with the cat hanging from your mouth.

Piper, this next lesson is very important.

Cats come in all shapes, sizes and colours. But there is one colour that you should never chase! This cat has a white stripe down its back and onto its fluffy tail. It smells funny. Worse than when you play in the swamp and then roll on the black smelly stuff in the grass down by the water pond.

Piper, if you chase this cat, you will never catch it. But you will quickly smell funny too. Your humans will give you a bath after they have shouted "gross" very loudly many times. Maybe even vomited on the carpet or in the kitchen sink. They may talk loudly for a long time trying to agree about who will give you the bath.

Sooner or later, your humans will want to take you out in a funny sounding device they call a 'car'. A car looks and smells like a small living place for humans but it moves much faster than a cat you are chasing. It has four round things that are fun to sniff and pee on when your male human is not around.

The humans' car moves from place to place. Sometimes fast. Sometimes slow. But mostly really fast. Humans always play loud noise when they are in the car. And they often fart loudly too. Especially the male human. He will do this a lot when the female human is not with him in the car. You will know right away when the male human farts in the car. There is no black and white cat in the car but it sure smells like one is hiding in there somewhere!

Sometimes the male human whistles and makes funny signs with his fingers when he passes other female humans walking beside the road or standing alone in the dog park. He will call you a "chick magnet" and offer you treats to do a few bum wiggles in front of these new female humans.

When riding in the car, your humans will try and keep you in the back part of the riding area. However, when you are still a puppy they will probably let you sit up front with them. This will be ok for a little while. All humans think it is "adorable". They will tell all their friends about it. With a little silver box thing, they will probably take something they call a 'picture' of you. They will show your picture to all their friends. Using their own little black or silver box, the friends will also want to take your picture in the front seat.

Those little silver or black boxes are called a 'phone'. Humans of all ages love to talk to other humans on their phones. It takes a lot of their time and attention to keep talking on their phones, so you will just have to figure out your own ways to keep most of their attention only on you.

Here's some more advice about riding in the car. Where you really want to be is in the back part of the car. The humans call this the 'back seat'. In the back seat there is a lot more room to stretch out, to scratch the seat coverings and quietly lick under your tail. And best of all, if you really have to pee while you're riding around, it's a great place to do it without your humans ever finding out.

While riding in the car, your humans will roll down the back windows so you can look outside while the car is moving. Hang your head out of the window and bark at everything you see that is not familiar. Especially cats, other dogs or humans called 'street people' or 'squeegee kids'.
At some point in the car ride with your male human, a human you don't recognize will come to the front window of your car with a pad of paper in his or her hand. This human is wearing blue or black coverings and has a funny looking hat with a shiny thing on it. They do not smile. Even a bum wiggle will not get them to smile. They will not play with you or scratch behind your ears. They do not have treats in their pockets. Humans call this other human a 'cop'.

Cops at the car window will always give your human a piece of yellow paper and say "Have a good day" when they walk away.

Piper, for sure don't growl at them or even bark. Your male human will probably be really upset for a while so don't expect any treats from him either. And for sure he won't tell your female human about this unexpected meeting with the cop.

Treats are a lot better than the other food stuff your humans will try to get you to eat. Vegetables, cereal, cheese, pizza, Oreo cookies and soft ice cream cones are my personal favourites. At first, your humans will not want to give you too much of this good type food. They will try to get you to eat dry, nugget type stuff that tastes either like cat litter or the hard bunny turds that you find in little piles lying under those large bushes in the park.

Here's a good tip. It works almost every time. Always sit really close to your humans when they are eating the good stuff. Look "cute". Sometimes a little bum wiggle helps too.

You're a Boxer so you are born to really drool and slobber. Gobs and gobs of it all over everywhere. It will hang out of your mouth in sticky strips. It will make huge ponds of slippery yuck on the living room carpet or sometimes on the front seat of the humans' car. Very quickly they will get the message. You will get some of the good stuff just to get you to stop slobbering.

Every time this happens with me, my humans always tell each other that they will never ever give me another treat. But then they feel bad. The next time they have good treats, I will usually get even more than before.

Piper, you will quickly figure out what works best with your humans. But if I were you, I'd work on your female human since she's the one who sneaks you treats for doing such cute things like nibbling on her male human's dangly bits.

Well Piper, I have to run off now and look "cute" out on the front grass. My female human is coming home soon. She likes to call to me from her car window. I pretend I don't know who she is. I raise the fur along my neck and back. I always growl quietly.

It's all an act, you know. But I get her attention really quick. She always laughs at me.

And Piper, I've seen my male human do this too. It seems to work really well for him.

How do I know this?

Well, she chases him into their sleeping room. They bounce and play and make growling sounds just like me. But only louder. I don't think they even wipe their eyes on the sleeping blanket.

Too bad. They don't know what fun they are missing.

Your friend,



  1. I don't usually like anthropomorphic tales, but this worked fine for me. A gentle and hilarious story, well-observed and written with a lovely lightness of touch, many thanks,

  2. Maggie has betrayed dogs everywhere by giving away their secrets.

  3. A sweet look at things from a dog's perspective. I enjoyed it.

  4. A winning perspective makes for an enjoyable read. Well done!