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Conversations with Tashi

Collecting some interesting dog interactions from text messages and other notes all in one place:

Saturday November 4 (Jak’s first full day in CDMX):
[read screenshot from bottom up, remembering that EXCITED means “energetic”]
I was at the table eating dinner when this happened, all nine presses in well under a minute. That’s more words than he usually uses in a string, including some rare and (at the time) newer words. Given the accompanying “play” body language, I am pretty sure this collection translates to “hurry up and be done eating so you can play with me.” As my friend pointed out, “hurry up and come play with me” is like 90% of what Tashi wants … but the way he expressed it was new and fairly elegant, given the words he had to work with at the time.

Sunday November 5:
6:08p to Jak
T just hit JAK — it’s dinner time and he wants to know where the usual dinner feeder is 😂

[from note documenting what I consider our first real volley of conversation]

I asked Tashi — verbally because we don’t yet have a PUZZLE button — “Tashi want puzzle hmm?” I modeled YES and NO and asked the question again, ending with “yes, or no?”

Instead he went for GO. GO is brand new as of yesterday; I’d modeled it for him once and he’d tested it (and COME) out once but hadn’t used GO since. Was he responding to me at all, or just testing the button again? Was he confusing the sounds of GO and NO?

Assume competence, I reminded myself. [This is something I learned from my reading about nonspeaking autistic kids.] “Go where?” I asked, and then realized that might be hard for him to answer with his available buttons (the only place name so far is OUTSIDE). “Go what?” I amended.

MORE, he said. “More what?” I asked, again verbally. FOOD, he said. Which — because the puzzle, like the kongs, contains food — made perfect sense, and also made sense in context of the presses that had preceded my puzzle question, which included a lot of KONG and FOOD and HURT (possibly “hungry”).

Thursday November 16 (Jak’s first full day in Texas):
[I am awakened at 6:05a by BORED EXCITED TOY MORE SOON KONG]

7:51a to Jak
I just had a successful “fetch” session with Tashi outside with the pig — fifteen-ish throw-and-return, no dropping but he let me take it from his mouth. The only way it worked was because neither the chuckit handle nor any rubber balls were outside.
I also used the word “fetch” a lot, “good fetch” every time he brought it back
[Tashi has resource-guarding behavior around the rubber Chuckit balls, because they move in a way that activates his very strong chase-prey drive, and this has escalated until he refuses to bring them anywhere near a person, turning “fetch” into “chase and drop really far away” and making exercising him very difficult for two people in their fifties. It took me a while to understand the root cause, and recently I’ve started working in our clicker sessions to try and reduce his guarding behavior around the balls.]

7:54a to Jak
also i think he understands “soon” now, whereas up until now I haven’t been sure
he was all jumping and harassing me and I said “soon. wait.” and he stopped!
i’ve been using “wait” for example when i go out to do the avocado check before letting him out in the morning: “outside soon. Tashi wait.”
[He’d also started using SOON himself, as with that morning’s wakeup call-to-action.]

8:42a to Jak
so far this morning we have had kong, food, chase, tug (outside), fetch, tug (inside), puzzle, and now we’re on our second kong. this dog is relentless.

9:00a to Jak
T: WORDS WORDS TOY PUZZLE K: “all done now” T: MAD

Friday November 17:
8:06a to Jak
jesus. while i was typing at you here, SOMEBODY countersurfed the sponge and ripped it into tiny bits
and then he went to the board and pressed CAT
trying to pass the buck, eh?
[Not at all sure that’s why he pressed CAT, but it was funny.]

7:01p to Jak
i … don’t know what to think.
i just stopped T from chewing on the firewood. and threatened him with “alone time” if he didn’t stop biting at me.
[He was frustrated/mad that I wouldn’t let him chew the wood, and also bored and wanted to play, hence the biting.]
he went over to the board and pressed HURT HMM?
[I was nonplussed by this, as he’s only just begun to ask questions at all, and never in what seemed like direct response to an event or something I’d said.]
i said “Karawynn not hurt … is Tashi hurt? and he promptly pressed NO.
[This was the first possible instance of Tashi answering a yes/no question with YES or NO, as opposed to not answering or answering by repeating a word, e.g. “Tashi want kong hmm?” replied to with KONG. This was after the board flip. It was very deliberate and I suppose it could have been random, or accidental due to his being confused about where the buttons had moved, but with 43 words on the board, that’s a less than five percent chance of randomly hitting either YES or NO. I was halfway across the room and not near the board at the time.]

Monday November 20:

[note to self]
I had taken a full benzo last night, desperate for sleep, so I was not awakened by dawn birds or cats or even Tashi’s late (7:00a) wake-up call of PLAY. Only after he came to the bed a couple minutes later did he (and Gracie) wake me up. He did not like being told to get his paws “off” the bed, but I said “Karawynn come soon; Tashi wait,” and the second time he accepted it and lay down on his bed.

Ten minutes later, I was up and dressed with contacts on, and I came out into the living room. Tashi came too of course, and pressed TUG GO GO HMM? SETTLE ALL-DONE … HAPPY (with a brief pause before happy because transit time; the others, post-flip, are all close).

So clear! Asking me to play now with urgency, happy that I’m no longer in bed.

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