|"I'm sorry, I simply don't understand you" source telegraph.co.uk|
My track record with animals is a pretty poor one as it goes and it started from a young age. It began with an incident with a red-setter called 'Rusty' who I thought had the most beautiful tail. I decided to stroke it and was alarmed to discover that instead of enjoying the feel of its silky red hair, I got a hand full of poo. My failure to understand Rusty's body language meant that I had stroked him while he was "going for a crouch" as my friend explained through tears of laughter.
A few years after that I went to stay with a family in France that included a trip to a big country pile owned by the grandmother. After eating a lovely stew of 'lapin' which I enjoyed until I figured out what the translation for 'lapin' was, and after the family had enjoyed laughing at my horror of eating rabbit (something that has since been overcome), I decided to explore the house and found myself in a dusty old room, with what I thought was a lovely, fluffy, friendly pussycat. How wrong I was. So bad was my French that evidently my attempt at "here kitty, kitty", translated into something extremely offensive and so it launched itself at me until I found myself cornered. I stood there shaking as the cat contented itself with hissing at me with its back arched until one of the (still laughing) family opened the door.
There have been bites from ponies and puppies, a knock on the shoulder from a horse, scratches from kittens and my own cat emptying its guts on my feet when I picked it up because it was making a weird noise. And of course the time when a not-yet-fully-trained Collie called Billy decided it was going to ignore its owners calls to "come back" and my hopeful utterance of "be a good boy" and bite me on the arse. As a result my body language around animals is shot (and I am up to date with my Tetanus shots). I do try to get it right and adopt a confident tone but the animals know and see it as their sport to alarm me.
So when near the end of my run a lady approached with a big dog on a lead that was straining at the bit to get near me, I called out "Is my running upsetting him?", she replied "Oh no, don't worry, this one's stupid, just ignore him." And in there was my moment of clarity - I need to drop the Doolittle - although if someone could give me the pigeon for "stop sh*tting on my car, I'd be very grateful, me and those birds need to have words.
Soundtrack: If I Could Talk to the Animals - Bobby Darin