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De-dummification

chigger

Just to be clear on a few things, I want to revisit the issue of dogs and dummies that I raised last week. After all, there are worse things than dogs for dummies, such as DOGS FOR FREAKIN' IDIOTS. IT MAKES ME WANT TO TEAR ALL MY FUR OUT AND STICK IT UP MY NOSE. ARRRRGH.

Anyway, the obvious point is that in spite of my outspoken efforts, there are some of you dogs out there who sooner or later are going to find yourselves in the company of dummies, or, if you live in Washington, DC, maybe one of the aforementioned idiots. My message to you is don't despair. With enough effort and a ton of patience, even a total idiot can be taught a rudimentary skill or two.

Take Stump and Tweet. I mean I love those two dearly (Like I have a choice. I'm a friggin' dog. It's hardwired into my DNA.) but they were never the shiniest collars in the pet store if you know what I mean. And yet now, after only ten years, I've taught them how to spell at least six words, all because I kept working at it and never gave up.

How did I do it? I'm here to tell you.

Let's take the word "walk." If you want to teach your dummy to spell you've got to show them tons of enthusiasm and shower them with affirmation. Every time Stump or Tweet would say the word "walk" I would rush to the door then back to where they were sitting and jump and down and wag my tail real hard and pant and bark and run back to the door and so on and so forth to acknowledge the fact that that was the word we were working on. Sometimes they would figure it out and we'd go for a walk, other times they wouldn't, but I never gave up. (I knew a city dog that had some success at this stage by pooping on the kitchen floor, but that's a specialized skill that should only be used by more experienced dogs.) It also helps if you have another dog around, like Woody, to increase the level of affirmative enthusiasm.

Anyway, to make a long story short, with lots of work Stump and Tweet eventually learned to spell "walk." They were tentative, and tended to be soft-spoken about it, looking furtively and saying, "Should we take the dogs for a w-a-l-k?" But they spelled it. And because they spelled it, I could just sit there quietly and relax knowing I'd done a good thing.

These days Stump and Tweet can spell also spell "treat," "food," "bone," "dog," "bath," and "vet." I'm so proud. Will they ever be able to spell well enough to write a coherent position paper on the Boxer Rebellion? Well, you know what they say about monkeys and typewriters. But hey, at least they're not total idiots, and it goes to show that with persistence you can indeed teach an old dummy new tricks.

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