George is very capable of communicating. However, he does it in such a diffuse and sometimes distant manner, that I don't always notice what he's saying, or even that he's saying anything at all.
Bridget comes barreling over - she pushes me, prods me, sticks her nose in my face, slams her butt into my side to ask for scratches, tries to copy what I'm doing, and generally is like an enthusiastic, bumptious kid, who wants to talk and ask questions and get involved in everything.
George on the other hand - for example - comes toward me indirectly, passing to one side, makes no face-to-face contact, and stops with me in the general vicinity of his hindquarters, careful not to touch me. If I fail to take the hint, he turns around and looks at the spot he wants to have scratched.
Today, he came over for a little scratching, but he wasn't really into it. He kept leaving and going to stand by a lone capped t-post, the remains of a manege I used to have. As he stood there, looking utterly woebegone, he would bite his legs and paw at the ground.
I thought to myself, "What in the world is the matter with George?"
I guessed he was frustrated because he wanted to go across the drive to the other field where there was a little green grass, and I'd already made it clear that this wasn't happening today. I decided that despite the piles of hay I'd put on the ground for his dining pleasure, George was just sad that there was no green grass in his field and his frustration was getting the better of him.
Later on, I was with the horses in a different part of the field, near an open gate which leads between two pastures. I noticed a stray piece of fence wire hanging down and wrapped it out of harm's way around the fence.
George went over and took the piece of wire in his mouth. If Bridget did that, it would be because she'd seen me wrap the wire and wanted to try to copy me. Not George. I offered him the end of the wire to see if he wanted to investigate it. No. He stuck his head over the fence. He stepped away, and right next to the gate post, he started pecking and pawing the ground and biting his legs again.
And then I understood. He's talking to me about fencing. That was the whole point of standing by the t-post, and then mouthing the fence wire, and then pawing beside the gatepost. Even though this particular piece of fencing and this open gate divides the two pastures he's currently living in, he's using the fencing here to make a point: He is frustrated by the fencing that is keeping him from the green grass.
It was getting late, but I wanted to do something for him and asked him to follow me across the field, where I exited and found a meager patch of green grass growing in a corner of the yard. I plucked the short grass and in the growing darkness gave George tiny handfuls of green through the fence. It wasn't much, but I hope at least he realized that I finally understood what he was talking about.
The complexity of his communication astounds me.
It's interesting that this happened today, because I've just been realizing that it's a long time since I tried to tap into George's special talents and gifts. Earlier today, I was trying to tell him that I was sorry about that, and perhaps looking for a word from him.
In my selfish way, of course, I now see I was hoping for something for me. Whereas right now, George has his own needs as a priority. Yet he perhaps sensed that I was listening again, and he talked to me.
Listening is hard. Hearing is even harder.