Authors: Suzanne Clothier
Tags: #Training, #Animals - General, #Behavior, #Animal Behavior (Ethology), #Dogs - Care, #General, #Dogs - General, #Health, #Pets, #Human-animal relationships, #Dogs
BONES WOULD RAIN FROM THE SKY
For anyone who has ever dreamed of being able to
Really talk to their dogs-and "hear" what they have to say...
The names and identifying details of both dogs and people
mentioned in this book have been changed in order
to protect their privacy.
Copyright [*copygg'2002 by Suzanne
Clothier All rights reserved.
Warner Books, Inc., 1271 Avenue of the
Americas, New York, NY 10020 Visit
our Web site at www.twbookmark.com.
An AOL Time Warner Company
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing: September 2002
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Bones would rain from the sky: deepening our
relationships with dogs/suzanne Clothier.
people. cm. ISBN 0-446-52593-6
1. Dogs-Behavior. 2. Dogs-Training.
3. Human-animal relationships.
4.human-animal communication. I. Title.
SF433 .c56 2002 636.
Book design by Mada Design, Inc. still
christian and bear
1.in the Company of Animals1
2.a Black Dog's Prayers13
3.d.es with Dogs31
4.the Quality of Connection50
5.walks with Dogs58
6.take It from the Top66
7.calling Dr. Doolittle82
8.pigs in Pokes93
9.and Nothing but the Truth103
10.what I Really Meant to Say Was ...118
11.take Me to Your Leader13 2
12.leadership Is Action149
13.^wh Couch Is It, Anyway8165
14.i'll Go First-This May Be Dangerous175
15.my, What Big Teeth You Hff185
16.put Down the Pancakes and No One
17.what Timmy Never Did to Lassie219
18.in Search of Soulful Coherence237
19.matters of the Heart253
20.cold Noses, No Wings275
If a dog's prayers were answered,
bones would rain from the sky
You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into
the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will
What you'll discover is yourself.
My only mistake was licking her knee. Until that moment,
they had been quite
tolerant of me panting quietly under the dining room
table, a good place to lie on a warm summer's
evening. I was a smart dog. I knew I might have
been cooler lying on the slick tile in the
bathroom, or even outside, shaded by the bushes
along the foundation. But I would have missed being with my
family. Seen from beneath the table, framed by a
tablecloth, my family appeared as a collection of
limbs and clothing: plump knees, knobby knees,
scabby knees, tired-looking ankles rising pale
and thin from sensible white socks, pleasantly grubby
feet idly rubbing the rungs of a chair, a
flip-flop dangling from a swinging toe.
I shifted to lean against a woman's knee, eyes
closed as I breathed in the sweetly familiar
perfume that rose from a hollow on her ankle.
Absently, she reached down to pat my head, and
grateful for the attention, I licked her knee. With
my aunt's startled cry, my blissful moments as
the family dog came to an end. It was not fair,
I thought resentfully as I was hauled out from under the table and placed unceremoniously in a chair with the command, "Sit here and eat like a human being!" All I wanted was a dog. If I couldn't have a dog,
the least my family could do was allow me to be a
dog. And everyone knows that dogs lick the people they like.
It was a typical middle-class family that owned
Me,no more dysfunctional than most, and certainly not one that
encouraged such odd behavior in its eldest child.
While tolerant of and kind to animals, neither of my
parents were "animal" people. It was not for want of love or acceptance that I was drawn to animals, though for many children animals do freely offer the unconditional love and acceptance often lacking in young lives.
Yet long before I knew disappointment or anger,
long before I learned how hurtful and complex
human beings could be, there was an instinctive
gravitation toward animals. Animals of every
description drew me to them simply because they
existed; they were, and are, my Mount
Everest,ultimately defying any explanation of their
magnetism, unbearably inviting-there to be seen and
possibly known if I am willing to undertake the
It was not enough to watch animals, or even to touch them.
I wanted to see their innermost workings, to be inside their
minds, to see and feel and smell and hear the world as they
did. My experiments in "being" an animal were usually carried
out in private, since my mother's tolerance for my animal
behaviors had pretty much vanished by the time I had licked
one too many knees. In playing house with my sisters,
however, these skills and experiments were encouraged, as
they allowed for exciting new story lines to be developed.
Typically, my middle sister would play mother
(a role in which she was and is extremely
fluent), and our youngest sister would accept whatever
role we assigned her. Without exception, I
played the family pet. Sometimes I was a dog,
sometimes a horse, and sometimes, stretching myself to more
exotic roles, I played a cougar or a
lion or a tiger until the requisite fierce
roars had exhausted my throat.
In my lifelong quest for fluency in animal
languages, fluency in Dog was the first and the
easiest. After all, native speakers lived in my
neighborhood and could be readily studied. Whether in
the company of a living, breathing dog or only conjuring
the countless fictional dogs in my head- Bob,
Lad, King, Buck, Lassie-I practiced.
I practiced panting, to the annoyance of my sisters
and to my own dismay when I discovered that
in the company of animals
far from cooling me as I had read it did for dogs,
panting only made me dizzy and left me
wondering if dogs ever hyperventilated as I did.
I tried lapping water and eating from a bowl on the
floor, wishing each time my muzzle were longer and more
suited to the task. I truly loved (and still do]
gnawing on bones from a steak or a chop, and understood
at least in part why dogs look so blissful when
granted such a treat. I practiced not turning my
head when I heard a sound behind me but instead cocking
an ear in that direction. It frustrated me that
lacking highly mobile and visible pinnae
I was unable to display publicly just how skilled I
had become. Tail wagging presented problems not
easily solved-a rolled shirt or towel gave a
rather dead effect, no matter how much I wiggled my
hindquarters. Ultimately, I settled on a
wag much like my ear movements comrefined, subtle, and
known (most regrettably) only to me.
I perfected several growls, a snarl and a snap that
ended with a delightfully audible click of my teeth
that rarely failed to alarm those at whom it was
directed. My hurt-dog yelp covered the
complete range of having my paw accidentally
stepped upon to mortally wounded and was realistic enough to stop
people in midstep. And of course, my barks were convincing-so
much so that I was occasionally employed to bark menacingly
if my parents weren't home and someone came to the
door. In college, my one-man "dog fights"
were guaranteed to liven up a boring night in the dorm
bathroom. It's amazing how easily you can convince
otherwise intelligent people that there are two poodles
at war in a shower stall.
There were other languages to be mastered as well.
Horses eclipsed even dogs on my passion
scale, and when at age ten I began riding
lessons, a new language of movement,
gesture and sounds opened to me. By age twelve, I
had mastered the basics: the greeting exchange of
slow, careful breaths in each other's nostrils; the
nicker; the whinny; the alarm snort; the head
tosses and snaking neck movements of an annoyed
horse; the slitted eyes and pinned ears of anger;
even the high-headed, wide- eyed sideways
retreat of a spooked horse. To this day, when
startled, I sometimes revert to a horselike shying.
Annoying childhood pranksters attempting to dunk
my head into the water fountain while I was drinking
failed to realize that I had my ears turned back
to hear them. They were always surprised when, as any
horse might, I kicked them with
great accuracy. Of course if they'd been able
to speak Horse, they would have seen the pinned ears and the
slitted eyes and known that they'd been given fair
My only regret in learning the basics of
Horse when I did was that it came too late to be
truly useful. Between ages six and eight, I worked
on my most ambitious role-the simultaneous
roles of a Canadian Mountie, his horse, and his
dog. If at that tender age I had known more than
rudimentary Horse, my gallops through the
neighborhood would have had far more authenticity.
To the best of my ability, my love of animals was
incorporated into every aspect of my life. My mother
encouraged my interests even though she did not always
understand them or share my curiosity and delight in
all aspects of the natural world. She learned
to check with caution any container in my possession.
A mere Dixie cup might be home to a frog or
a collection of shed locust skins or even a
deliberately grown mold. Her laundry
basket might contain newly washed socks or
neatly folded pajamas; just as easily, it might
be home to a naked baby bird with hideously
visible internal organs. Her card table, turned
upside down and wrapped in chicken wire, became
home to Buster and Dandy, a pair of Rhode
Island Red chickens who, as much older chickens,
repaid her tolerance by merrily eating every blossom on
three flats of Mother's Day plants.
Without a single question and little more than a raised
eyebrow, my mother supplied me with pie pans,
flour, molasses, and a paintbrush. Though she may
have idly hazarded a wild guess as to what I had
in mind, nothing prepared her for the reality of
what I did with these items. I had just finished
reading The Yearling, as she well knew-she'd been
the one to find me sobbing so fiercely on the
living room sofa that she
actually feared one of my friends had died. But seeing
the book in my hand, she ventured sympathetically,
"I suppose you've gotten to the part where he shot
Flag, huh?" I nodded and sobbed louder.
"Well, dinner's ready whenever you are." Once I
had recovered from grieving for the
yearling deer, I decided to use Jody and his pa's
method to track honeybees in my own
neighborhood to their hive. The book had discussed
at length the seemingly simple matter of using
molasses to attract bees who would then receive a
dab of flour on their behinds, said flour then serving as
an easily followed visual marker of the bees'
flight. I can now categorically state that my
Great Bee Experiment proved only that this
classic book was entirely a work of fiction, and that
bees object rather violently to having flour dabbed
on their behinds. It was not the last of my Great
Experiments, but it was one of the more painful
Only occasionally did my enthusiasm overrun my
mother's considerable tolerance. I'll never know what
rare gleam in my eye warned her when I asked for a
small kitchen knife one fine summer afternoon, but she
hesitated as she reached into the kitchen drawer. When
further questioning revealed that I meant to carry out an
exploratory autopsy on a dead rabbit I had
found, she flatly refused me the loan of even a
spoon. To this day, I am left wondering if a
potentially brilliant career as a veterinary
surgeon ended there and then.
But it was probably just as well. The proficiency
in math that veterinary schooling requires was not my
strong suit. Very often, school bored me. I
might have fared better as a scholar if the rather dull
Home Economics class had been replaced with a
truly interesting course, say Barn Economics
or Kennel Management 101. Had my teachers
been wise, I could have been encouraged to love
algebra at a tender age if only the math
problems had been: "Seventeen zebras who left
at noon are traveling west at nine miles an
hour. Six lions who left at four o'clock are
headed east at eight miles an hour. When
will the zebras and lions meet, and how many zebras
will be alive after that meeting?" The requisite cars,
planes and trains usually invoked in these problems
left me cold and disinterested.
Even my spiritual life was woven through with animals.
Despite the emphasis our church placed on
Jesus (who, I noted, did not even have a
dog!), I felt a more natural alliance with
Noah, my childhood hero. (jonah, having had such an
with a whale, was another favorite of mine.) Given
a Bible with a concordance, I immediately looked up every
verse-and there are many-that contained mention of an
animal: eagle, ass, horse, sparrow, lion,
dog, sheep, lamb, cattle, goats, swine. I
took to heart the notion that all of God's
creatures were his creation, just as I was. As such,
I assumed they were as welcome in Sunday school
as any of the little children. And so it was that at a very tender
age I had my first crisis of faith, which began with a
coonhound I met on the way to church.