Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Woofer Experiment

You don't need a Canine-Human dictionary to understand your dog's native tongue. Once you've lived with him for awhile, you may not be able to speak his language, but you easily comprehend it. 

For instance...

The choppy barks spaced about one second apart mean, "Uh-oh! I think I hear somebody out there. You'd better open the door so I can go check." 

The angrier, deep-chested barks coming twice as fast mean, "Holy crap! There's DEFINITELY somebody out there! I hear footsteps. And voices! I'll put a stop to all that laughing if you just pleeeeeease open the door!!"

And there's no mistaking the insane wailing mixed with high-pitched yaps, loosely translated as, "A DOG-A DOG-A DOG! GET-UP-GET-UP-GET-UP-GET-UP!! I CAN'T TURN THE DOOR KNOB!! THERE'S A DOG OUT THERE! GOOD GAWD, CAN'T YOU HEAR HIM?? HE'S GONNA PEE IN OUR YARD!! HE'S GONNA PEE IN OUR YARD!!!"

But lately I've been wondering. Obsessing, really. Could there be more nuance to what Gracie and Rose are trying to tell us? And then it dawned on me. There's an app for that.

So yesterday I activated the Dictation feature on my computer. (The application that turns spoken words into text on screen.) 

And then we encouraged the girls to bark.

I'll never be able to "unsee" the ghostly words typing themselves out on my computer last night. Let me just say this: Gary Larson was wrong. So very wrong.

(Sigh.) Oh, would that the message of Dog were so trivial and unknowing.

Stop reading right now if you hope to sleep tonight--their words haunt me still.

Gracie and Rose chanted the chorus over and over: 

"Are! Are! Are! Or? Or? Or?"

Clearly the girls are trying to shed light on the slowly-evolving legal rights of animals in this country. Our dogs are crying out for recognition.
"We ARE! We ARE! We ARE actual living, sentient, sometimes-stinky beings, who deserve a few rights of our own. OR...?? Do you still consider us your sole property, with no more inherent value than your floor lamp or your broken weed whacker?
And I see where they're coming from. 

Human progress toward recognizing other creatures as animal citizens is only inching along. It's held back by all sorts of people--like biomedical researchers who fear that they will no longer be able to use monkeys in their labs. (I can't think about this too long without shuddering.) 

And even veterinarians worry, because if an animal is worth more than its mere economic value, malpractice suits will skyrocket. I feel their pain, because vets are paid frighteningly poorly. How will they absorb the cost of the insurance to protect themselves? But our humanity is at stake here, and maybe we'll have to overhaul the way in which our vets get paid. 

These are the problems that Gracie and Rose are begging us to wrestle with, and to pretty-please hurry up about it.

They're right of course. But I long for the days when it didn't feel so wrong to ask them to stop barking.

How can I tell Norma Rae to lie down and hush up?

Today I'm going to make more of an effort to listen to what people are really trying to tell me--even if they're having trouble finding the right words.


  1. Made me think of
    "Listen to the thunder shout: 'I AM, I AM, I AM'" …

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Be engaged, but be nice.