Felix has the most discernment of any dog I've ever encountered. He can tell the time to within about 5 minutes, knows exactly which of my thousand items of essentially featureless black clothing mean I'm staying home or going out, and if going out, which ones mean he will be coming with us. Walking through the kitchen a certain way means I am going out into the exciting dog-positive garden and not just hanging boring washing. A weekend is two days; three is extra and different.
Most curiously of all, he seems to know the difference between visitors who are a one-off occurrence and those who are likely to be more regular, right from their first visit, treating the former casually but immediately engaging the latter in a far more considered program of study, ranking and approval. Which reminds me how socially sophisticated an intelligent dog really is; their perception of subtle cues is far better than our own. It must be difficult to accept the preeminence of our oafish verbal modus.
I've only recently noticed the really nuanced range of glances he uses to try and direct our attention; the disparity in our height makes it difficult, I suppose. The other day while we were minding Hamish (my mother's dog), I asked Felix where he was, and he led me down from the upper garden past the house, glancing briefly, but quite pointedly, at the kitchen door on his way to the front gate (where he was planning to bark at someone). Hamish was inside on the couch. It struck me that these indicative looks were in fact his primary means of communication, that he could tell me exactly where Hamish was in passing without taking me directly to him, as is our stupidly literal, anthropocentric expectation.
Placing too much emphasis on the wrong cues is a difficult habit to shake, but I think it might be an extremely valuable lesson. Thanks, Foofy.