“You would have thought that he was the world’s most obedient dog. ‘Sit, boy!’ I called to Macy, our 2-year-old black Labrador. He sat down and held up a paw. ‘Good boy’, I encouraged. It hadn’t always been this way though. When we first got Macy he didn’t understand any English.
Two months ago my husband, Dick had spotted an advert in the Sunday Mail. The Glasgow Dog and Cat Home was searching for a home for a Labrador. ‘Looking for a new owner to go talkes,’ he read out. ‘Do you mean walkies?’ I asked. ‘No, it says talkies,’ Dick insisted. The article said that the dog only understood Punjabi, as that was the language his previous owners had spoken. I was curious, so decided to go and visit him the next day. There was a few words of Punjabi next to the article, so that night I got some practice in saying the words out loud.
At 10am on the dot, Dick and I were the first people at the centre. ‘We’re here to see the Labrador from the paper,’ I explained to the girl at reception. She laughed. ‘Are either of you any good at languages?’ ‘Not really,’ I said. ‘But I’ve been practicing a bit of Punjabi.’
She led us out to a back garden area and that’s when I saw Macy. He was gorgeous, with huge brown eyes, just like in the paper. ‘We have to have him,’ said Dick. Now we had to work on our language skills. So instaed of saying ‘sit’, we’d say ‘baith’.
Amazingly, he sat down in front of me straightaway, and lifted up one of his paws. ‘He understands me!’ I cried. Over the next few days I learnt a few words and after a bit of practice, Macy could understand everything I said. When I called ‘fur’, he would fetch the ball I threw. If I shouted ‘turna’ he would walk. But I always tried to say it in English too, so he would eventually understand both commands.
Now we speak to Macy in a mixture of English and Punjabi. So I guess we’ve proved you can teach an old dog new tricks – and a new language!”