Along for the ride:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Other Nations by Kate Barnes

I used to think women who talked baby talk to their animals were the rock bottom.
Now I'm not so sure. Now I open my mouth and hear, coming out of it,: Is you a good, good dog?"
-words that are falling in their light, descending order to two pricked ears,
a hairy face, a glowing eye, an unbroken concentration on the excellent, bone shaped dog biscuit
I'm holding up, increasing our pleasure with some slight, prolonging chitchat.
My neighbor Zoe, at twelve, cries to her cat, "Oh dearest, darlingest Wooshiekins!" as she presses extravagant kisses on the round head of a pale, torpid marmalade who doesn't seem to mind (but her silent father gets up and leaves the room).
"They are other nations," my own father wrote, "caught with ourselves in the net of life and time." Of course, he meant the wild ones, but our household allies, too, link us to a greater world.
We wish we could speak their languages; and, meanwhile, they learn ours.
When the rein snaps while I'm driving home in the buggy, with Blackberry trotting hard, grabbing the bit, through the rush of a blustery March day, I don't start hauling on the other rein and risk tipping us over or starting a runaway; I call to him loudly, "wa-alk...wa-alk..."
- and after he does that he hears me say, "Whoa!" - and he does that.
So how can I ever praise that huge person enough, those twelve hundred pounds of best behavior who may just have saved my life? I get out and tie the ends of the parted rein as he rolls his questioning eye, and I pat his strong, damp neck, repeating, over and over, without thought, a mantra of gratitude to gods and animals. "Thank you," I say, "thank you, thank you, kind fate, thank you, my good, good friend!"

Thanks to "Tidings of Magpies" for introducing me to the poetry of Kate Barnes.


  1. I am so so very ashamed that I have a rescued chihuahua. It has made me talk baby talk...just between him and me of course.

    I used to be able to speak with a gentle comforting voice to my dogs, the big fierce, massively trained ones....

    Now, I'm an old woman with an old woman's dog...all 4 pounds of him...and what a sweet boy he is...his mommy just loves him....good Lord, I need to just face it...I have no shame when it comes to animals.

  2. I like to think that I talk to my animals in a grown up way... and I do... "get down!".. "stop it!".. "come here!" "oh nooo what have you done now!?"... etc, I do have a habit of giving everyone multiple names though, the pony is currently "Pickling troll".. I admit also, you can find me alone in the field occasionally crooning to the la's (sheep).. "oohhh... how's my Cynthia lamby lamby.... she's so beautiful... laaaaaaa..." *reddens..
    This piece of writing is really nice and so honestly and well observed.

  3. Well now, of course I never use baby talk to my animals....and that's why every one of them has about three or four cutsie pie nicknames, and their own songs. *VBWG*

    However, when working with and training the horses, I am very adult and serious, as I am when I expect certain behavior from them in the barn. I save the cuddly stuff for...well, all those times when we need to be cuddly...

  4. Trust me,It's when the animals baby talk back that you relly need to worry. :)