The Rosetta Bone

Pun 100 percent intended.

In college, I studied Communications.

It wasn’t a B.S. in Canine Sciences, but it was a pretty interesting degree. In a past life, I am pretty sure I was a veterinarian. I was the Dr. Gregory House of veterinarians. I saved hundreds of animals’ lives, and had an international canine clientele.

But in this life, I am not a veterinarian. Because I cannot do organic chemistry or stoichiometry, I cannot understand nor appreciate a Nucleotide structure, and it is a very freezing day in hell when I can comprehend any concept of calculus. I am extremely right-brained, and while the right side of my brain is capable of loving and caring for absolutely any animal (No, I do not consider a cockroach an animal. Anything that can survive 10 days without its head, atomic bombs, ice ages, nuclear explosions, extreme temperatures and multiple shots of Windex is not an animal.), unfortunately just loving and caring will not save an animal if he/she is in harm’s way. So, in this lifetime, I am an animal-loving journalist. Which brings me just as much happiness.

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I refuse to eat your calculous homework tonight.


Anyways, my point is that I have a degree in the sole thing that holds our society together, the thing that can divide nations and unify cultures: Communication. It is a very powerful and useful study, which is one of the reasons I chose it. Whether it be verbal cues, different language, interpersonal, intercultural- communication is what essentially makes the world go ’round. And interestingly enough, the same holds true for our animal friends, too.

Dr. Doolittle wasn’t crazy.

Animals can talk. Not the same way we do, unfortunately. Of course, I would love to be able to actually explain to my dog that the squirrels aren’t worth the chase, or that the reason why we don’t give him human food is actually because we love him, and that we have our reasons as to why he can’t munch on the strange things that the humans wear on our feet. While it is bittersweet that they cannot communicate the way that humans do, they are still able to communicate and actively network. Or should I say PETwork! (Someone stop me.)

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It is crucial to learn the signals that your dog is transMUTTing (I CAN’T STOP), for multiple reasons. First off, it’s important to their overall health- you can tell a lot about a dog’s health by examining his non-verbal cues. Second off, it could protect you one day. Mammals communicate the same, for the most part, and while you’re out in a WiFi-free zone one day, reading the non-verbal cues of a not-so-friendly wild animal might just save you. (To some people, I am Hillary Tapley. To others, I am Eliza Thornberry.) So at long last, here are some common yet important signals that your pup gives off on the daily:


The Wink

We’ve all seen it. It happens from time to time. You’re cursing at your taxes or folding your laundry, and you look down at your pup for some relief, and he gives you a suave, charming wink. This is not the same wink that you might get at a bar from a balding man named Bruce in a Harley Davidson jacket. It simply means that your dog is about to take a nap in about 15 seconds. He is calm and relaxed, and the duties of protecting his humans from any intruders are in the back of his mind. This cue also represents the same signal as the infamous nose-lick.

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Yeah I have no idea what this one means.

The Stances of Distress

These stances are important to know if you plan on socializing your dog a lot, whether it be in a dog park, or if you plan on boarding him/her with other dogs while you’re out of town. It is crucial to know how your dog will get along with others to avoid any physical conflict. There are three main signals of distress in a dog:

  1. Dominant Aggressive: The dog’s back is raised, the tail is stiff and in an upright position, the front teeth are exposed, and the hackles (tufts of fur on his back) are raised up. When a dog shows this signal, he/she is not trying to play. A lot of fights start because owners think that their dogs are “just playing around,” but when you see a dog present this cue, it’s time to calm everyone down and give everyone a little break for a bit.

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    Muschamp can exemplify the dominant aggressive flawlessly.

  2. Fearful Aggressive: The dog’s back is lowered, as if he is trying to do an army crawl. The hackles are still raised, and even though his lips are curled back, not as many teeth are showing here. His or her ears will be back- this is a crucial difference between a fearful aggressive and a dominant aggressive.
  3. Fearful and worried: The dog will usually be licking the air or licking the dog that is causing it fear. His or her paw will be up as if to show a signal of surrender. In cases of complete fear, the dog will just roll over on his or her back, with the tail in between the legs. This is the “fetal position” for an anxious dog.

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Getting their leg humped by a dog is not everyone’s favorite pastime. It makes for an awkward introduction…or should I say PAWkward! (This needs to stop.) Getting your dog spayed or neutered decreases their urge to hump immensely. (Not to mention, it also saves from a litter of homeless pups!) But even dogs that have uh…lost their sexual abilities are still prone to hump on occaision. This is because humping, for them, does not necessarily mean the same thing that it does to us humans. For them, it’s equivalent to rams headbutting, or peacocks fanning out their beautiful feathers. Or even a group of frat boys smashing beer cans on their heads. It is simply a statement of dominance. So, not to worry…your dog does love you. But just not that kind of love…


I work at a kennel, and owners will ask us about this all the time, with an embarrassed forced laugh, and a blushing face. Well after working around animals for a while, you tend to be completely unfazed by pretty much everything. (Cleaning up a 114lb Saint Bernard’s projectile vomit kind of changes you.)

When your dog “scoots,” he/she is not doing some groovy canine ritual or interpretive dance. This is actually an important health sign, and a potential trip to the vet if your pup is a frequent scooter. The technical term for scooting is actually called Manual Expression.

I’m going to really try to not go into that much detail here, but this is a way for your dog to relieve his or her anal glands. Charming, right?! A great factoid for an awkward first date. Bottom line is: if your dog is a regular scooter, it might be time to call the vet.


This one is pretty important. A lot of owners get concerned by this behavior, and rightfully so. Coughing can present a wide range of meanings. Anything from a hairball (especially if your dog has long, shaggy hair), to a lodged object, to kennel cough, or a bacterial infection.

If he or she is coughing on occasion, there is likely nothing to be worried about. This is an animal with an extremely powerful nose- it can sniff about five times per second. So, an occasional cough or two is usually just a product of a common “excited sniff.” (Did the humans make bacon again today??)

If the coughing is persistent, or accompanied with fever (check under his or her arms to see if they are hot), lethargic behavior, vomiting or heaving- this could be serious. Kennel cough is an infection that affects dogs (usually puppies), that are social or might share a water bowl with another dog or group of dogs. It could also be a very unfortunate and hard-to-treat condition, known as heartworms. To prevent heartworms from even starting, you can start your dog on an inexpensive monthly heartworm treatment, and make sure that he stays away from drinking stagnant water- a breeding zone for mosquito larvae.

If you are thinking of adopting a dog, it is so crucial that you are able to read some of the above important cues that they give off. Also, it’s pretty dope to be able to communicate with an animal in some way. Nigel Thornberry said it best, “Smashing!”

Clearly I need to go to bed now. *winks eye*

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Woah, man.


With a wagging tail,

Hillary and Humphrey





The Underestimated Elderly

They’re cute, fluffy, and have adorable bellies. They squeak a lot, are clumsy and will sleep just about anywhere, in any position.

I’m either talking about some hybrid animal in a Harry Potter movie, or puppies. Let’s go with the latter of the two, just to keep the theme of the blog. Shall we?

Puppies, man.

Puppies. Does it get much better than a snuggly, warm, tiny ball of fur? I don’t know, man. I don’t know. They even have their own signature “puppy breath.” They fill Facebook feeds, they’re the rulers of YouTube content, and they’re adorable enough to make even Kristin Stewart crack a smile. That’s a big deal. That girl does not smile.

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*calls 9-1-1*

*Wipes tears away* Yeah, he was too cute for our own health. Show me a human baby that is even remotely as cute.

Moral of the story: puppies are cute. I didn’t tell anyone anything that they didn’t know.

And just like humans,

puppies grow up too. They grow into their clumsy paws, their barks get deeper and more intimidating to the intruders that walk on their humans’ land to deliver a package. They lose their puppy fluff and their little puppy bellies, and they might grey a little bit. Unfortunately, rarely will someone goo and ga “OMG SO CUTE LITERALLY GOALS,” over an elder dog, with their grey face, maybe a few fatty tumors, hobbling around on their old legs that once ran faster than the blink of an eye.

But I’m here to challenge the status quo and say that maybe older dogs are where it’s at. I mean, yeah, they aren’t amused by your laser beam pointer (Human, I learned what that was many, many years ago. It simply cannot be caught). Maybe they’re missing a few teeth and have gained a few pounds. But they’re mysterious, peaceful, and more loving and loyal than ever.

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Missing you, old friend.

Cooper lived to be 13. Towards the end of his life, he lost his teeth, eyesight, and hearing. Despite his degeneration, he loved more than any other dog I’ve ever known. He knew which of his humans were which, even though he could hardly see or hear them.

Cooper, like many other elder dogs I’ve met, was full of wisdom. (Okay this is where some of you close your browser because I just described an animal to be wise.)

But they are wise. They have been in your household for over a decade. They know that on Monday mornings, the humans are more cranky than usual. That on Saturdays and Sundays, the humans don’t go away to their mysterious duties all day. They know that staring at the humans as they eat their delicious human food each night will not land them any scraps of their food. They know that the evil human who brings papers to the front of the house each day is actually not that evil and just wants to pay some sort of homage to your humans with a bag of…paper. They have been there through all of the family fights, new neighbors that don’t necessarily like four-leggeds, tears and laughter, and all Christmas mornings: Why do the humans take a tree from the outside and then put all of the shiny things on it (which I did learn many years ago not to eat)? And I cannot pee on this tree, but I can pee on any other tree on the outside?

He knows just about everything about you and your family. You all are his humans, after all. He may not be able to see you or hear you. But he will love you until his very last breath.

With a wagging tail,

Hillary and Humphrey (and of course, Cooper too.)


So what’s the deal with human food?



We saw you take the cheese out of the magic metal human food door. We saw it. Don’t even try to hide it, we saw it.

Ah, human food.

Any pup’s dream. Just the taste of those salty Cheese-It crumbs, or slurping up the last bit of that Hawaiian Punch that someone spilled a few seconds ago– quick! Get it before the human comes back with that evil thing that they call “The Swiffer” *whines with fear*

It’s truly no wonder that dogs find all human food to be a delicacy. Have you ever tasted a Kibble & Bit? What about Purina One? (What?…No, no…not me…I’m..asking for a friend..) Their food has absolutely no flavor, so to them, a piece of mozzarella cheese probably has an explosion of flavor, new textures, AND— “it’s magical, because my human eats it.” Have you ever noticed how you pull an ice cube out of the freezer, and when you give it to your pup, they seem elated as if to say “THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING TASTELESS FROZEN BLOCK OF ICE I AM NOT SURE HOW TO EAT IT BUT THE HUMANS EAT IT ALL THE TIME SO IT MUST BE MAGICAL AND I MUST SHOW GRATITUDE TO MY TWO-LEGGEDS.” (I got carried away, I always do..)




Anyways, so I am sure you can see why our canine friends might go bonkers for a banana, or crazy for a cracker crumb. And it’s inevitable– our furry friends will consume some human food at least once in their lives. Some people are extremely strict on what their pets consume, and I have also met others that shell out more grocery funds on Fido than they do on themselves. (Side note: has anyone ever actually met a dog named Fido?) While I am certainly not the latter of the two, I am guilty. I am guilty of slipping Humphy a tiny piece of chicken, salmon, cheese, and maybe even some yogurt every now and then…but what crosses the line between a friendly treat, and a toxic threat?



There are some human foods that are actually very beneficial to give your pup, in moderation. Some of these tasty treats can help maintain a shiny coat, healthy teeth, and even ward off that unwanted adult canine arthritis.


Great for pups that have skin allergies— a low-calorie treat that is rich in fiber and vitamin A. (That’s what’s up, doc..)


Great for a shiny coat and a healthy heart. Just make sure that the seasoning is left off, and oh yeah—hold the lemon juice. Dogs find citrus to smell and taste like straight up garbage.


An apple a day keeps the…vet away? Great for your dog’s teeth, as this treat cleans the hard to reach chompers in the back of his mouth. Be sure to remove the core and seeds, though. Apple seeds can be toxic to dogs, and the core might serve as a choking hazard.


Rich in calcium and vitamin D, this treat is great for prevention and maintenance of arthritis and other joint inflammation that takes place as your friend ages. Be sure that there are no added artificial sugars, and stick to plain yogurt or a very lightly flavored one (in moderation). Cool your pup off on a hot day by sticking this treat in the freezer for a few hours—he will adore you for it.


This is great for an upset stomach or a new puppy getting used to eating kibble. If your pup is chucking up his breakfast, be sure that he stays hydrated by giving him a bit of diluted chicken broth.


Human look at this physique. I can eat what I please.



Even worse than the evil vacuum cleaner…

You might think that you’re treating your dog to what is tasty/healthy for humans…but it could be extremely toxic.


Us humans love them. Frozen, on a PB&J or in a glass of some gas station boxed Merlot—grapes are a bigger part of our diets than we think. Unfortunately, dogs can’t process the sugar or break down the skin from grapes, and this can lead to liver failure and kidney problems—a serious and sometimes fatal condition for dogs.


This includes coffee, tea, diet coke, etc. Your pup’s heart rate is generally faster than yours, especially if you have a tiny breed, like a Yorkie or Chihuahua, or a puppy. Any bit of caffeine will raise his heartbeat up—sometimes to dangerous levels.


I don’t want to know what kind of crazy this pup would be WITH caffeine…


*bangs head on table* I see this too often, especially when I was in college. I would go to a party and some ~supErrr fRattY brO~ would be watching his poor dog (likely named something like Alpha, General Lee, Trump, or Remington) stumble around after lapping up the Keystone Light leftover underneath the beer pong table. Poor Alpha cannot metabolize alcohol the way we can—his liver is not near as efficient.

As much as I’d like to think that dogs are just little humans with more fur, it’s important to realize that they also can’t process food the same way humans do, either.

Also, it kinda sucks that they can’t text you either.

With a wagging tail,

Hillary & Humphrey

Since my dog doesn’t have thumbs…

…I suppose I’ll type up this blog.

It might be cliché- girl graduates college and then creates blog. I’ve always wanted to create a blog, but I didn’t know what to write about. Some of my friends that I graduated with have amazing blogs with cute themes, discussing some profound an interesting topics that they are passionate about. For many months, I have tried to think of similar content, content that I am passionate about. And I would circle back to dogs, each time.

Dogs. Who would want to read a blog in which the content just consists of a girl gushing about her love for…dogs? Well, while I could write hundreds of poems, songs, haikus (maybe), screenplays, etc. on my adoration for dogs, I will try to be somewhat normal here, and throw in an educational twist. Let me explain:

I was a weird child. A lot of people say that about themselves, but you guys– I was just downright weird. My poor parents. I was so intrigued by dogs; I would check-out only dog books at the library. And I’m not talking about like fairy-tale animal stories, I’m talking Anatomy of Large Canine or Advanced Canine Health type of books. And you bet your tail that I would read them all. I was like the Matilda of dog books. I would be so fascinated by dogs that my “pawlter ego” was a dog named FiFi- a cocker spaniel that loved to force her poor mom to walk her on a leash while all the neighbors would wave and say under their breath “There goes the Tapley kid again.”

Now that we’ve established that I have won the most bizarre childhood award, my point is- from a young age, I’ve been fascinated with dogs and know more about them- their anatomy, their psychology, their aging process, dietary needs, ect.- than I probably should. So, instead of writing a blog just as an ode to my love for the beloved canine, I’m going to put a more educational/advisory focus on it, for all other dog lovers out there/people considering on getting a pup of their own.


One of my favorite books on pup psychology, by Brian Hare.

Hopefully then, I can spread some of the love and joy that these wonderful animals bring to me each day. (That includes you, cat lovers.)

With a wagging tail,

Hillary + Humphrey