My Dog Racist! Non

My Dog Racist! Non

LiQ_Mag_Abonnez-vousBy Ross Murray

When I first moved to Quebec, it took me more time than you’d think to realize that dogs speak French.
In some ignorant, Euro-centric way (and no doubt in some patriarchal way if we’re really going to assign blame), it simply never occurred to me that dogs might respond to other languages than English.

You wouldn’t think this would matter until you appreciate how confusing it must be for a dog when you tell him, “Sit!” and he hears, “Viens icit!”

I wonder, though, whether pets raised in one language consider other languages threatening. I ask this because my dog may be a bigot.

I live on a lovely, residential, mostly quiet street. I say “mostly quiet” because the street includes “that house.” Every street has “that house.” In this case, “that house” is an ongoing onslaught of revving engines, tire squeals and, for a brief period, an outdoor drum-kit.

Then there’s our house. I’ve always considered us to be friendly and considerate, until, that is, our neighbour across the street came over and complained apologetically that whenever we leave our dog tied up outside, she barks and barks and barks.

In other words, our house was becoming “that house.”

It’s true; Bella is a barker. Perhaps it’s because she never fully recovered from being named after a Twilight character (“No she wasn’t!” insists the daughter who named her and who has read the series three times), but the movement of people and objects in her outdoor periphery does unleash (ha!) a steady, unstoppable yap attack.

Here’s the thing, though: living on one side of us are English neighbours; on the other side are our French neighbours. Bella ignores the former and barks relentlessly at the latter.

Does our dog hate French people?

It’s very embarrassing. It’s not as though we’ve exposed the dog to anti-French behaviour in our house. We do French homework and utter French swear words. Not only that but sometimes we like nothing better than to talk to heach udder in da fake French haccents. But that’s just good clean fun.

Isn’t it?

Ross_Murray_Gangnam_StyleI’ve always loved doing accents but sometimes I wonder whether it’s acceptable to do so. For example, I work at a high school with an international student body. Recently, as I served the students lunch, I asked in an Italian accent, “Who wants-a this nice-a big-a chicken leg?” Was this racist? It didn’t feel like it. The students did look at me oddly, but that’s normal. Yet what if it had been a Chinese accent? Then I would probably have written, “I used to work at a high school with an international student body…”

And if a Chinese accent is racist, is a French accent also racist? And is Québécois even a race? I know Premier Marois is from another planet but I’m pretty sure she and I are white folk.

If a francophone were to imitate my wretched English accent, I wouldn’t think it was racist or bigoted or prejudiced or intolerant. I would think it was completely deserved. Honestly, my accent, c’est sucké.

The very fact that we toss around the misused, inflammatory “racist” whenever a language brouhaha rears its ugly tête is indicative of just how hyper-sensitive and hysterical this topic can make us. Ultimately, language prejudice isn’t racist. It’s just ignorant.

This same oversensitivity is probably what makes me questions my dog’s motives when she barks at the French neighbours. When I look at it rationally, I doubt very much that my dog is a bigot. Like her owner, she’s probably just a jerk.

Categories: News

About Author

Ross Murray

Ross Murray is an award-winning humorist and radio contributor and the author of two books ‘You’re Not Going to Eat That, Are You?’ and ‘Don’t Everyone Jump at Once’. Raised in Nova Scotia, Ross has lived in the Eastern Townships of Quebec since the early 1990’s with his wife Debbie, four children and far too many pets. After all this time, Ross feels comfortable calling himself a Townshipper; his neighbours call him something else.


  1. jobp
    jobp 29 November, 2012, 20:15

    I guess it depends on what exactly the dog is trying to say to the neighbours through his barking and if he’s actually barking in French or English. If he’s barking in English, it’s normal they’ would complain, because they may not understand what he’s saying, consequently driving them nuts. Great article.

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