Ever since he was a tiny pup, Ollie has always loved to greet a guest to the house. He learned the word ‘guest’ very quickly, and even if there are none, just mention the word, and he will go off in search of them. He believes everyone to be a guest, from the daily visit of the postman, to deliveries from Amazon, they all qualify in his book.
We have discovered that he can also differentiate between certain guests. When our grandson Kayton first came to visit, we told Ollie that he was ‘baby guest’. Ollie took his toys to show the baby, and went to see him every time he cried, or gurgled. Now if we say ‘baby guest’, he rushes over to where we keep Kayton’s bean bag, or baby seat, and sniffs them excitedly.
The heating engineer is also one of our fellow dog-walkers, and has a Rhodesian Ridgeback called Spike. Ollie and Spike always play rough over at The Meadows, so Ollie remembers his owner all too well. As a result, he is very excited to see Richard when he comes to fix the heating, and brings him a succession of soft toys to inspect. This morning, oblivious to the need for his guest to have his head in a cupboard, changing valves, he kept appearing with a large stuffed tortoise, offering it for play. When there were no takers for his tortoise, he amused himself instead by carefully sniffing all of the tools in the toolbox, as well as the discarded packaging of the new valve.
There are some special guests he really looks forward to seeing. If anyone who has ever taken him overnight arrives, he rewards them by jumping up to them, something he never does otherwise. The young woman who bred him, and still owns his Mum, gets special attention, with him squeaking excitedly, as he is so pleased to see his first ‘parent’. If any of the family arrive to stop over, he will always be sure to be ready to rush into the spare room when they get up, making sure that his ‘guests’ are suitably acknowledged; and that they are still there of course.
Once all the guests or visitors have departed, he will occasionally do a short tour of the rooms in the house, just to make certain that everyone has left. I have always been someone who believed that dog owners tend to treat their dogs too much like humans, and I have little truck with the claims that they understand things that are said to them. I have always believed that they take more from the tone of voice, or your expressions, and calculate things based on habit and previous experience.
But as far as understanding what ‘guest’ means, I’ve had to eat my words.