It’s been a while since my last installment and some of you are probably wondering where I’ve been. I mean, after my last bit about the aches and pains the hypochondriacs out there might even think I’ve been in the hospital, or worse. Not so. I’m fine. As usual. And no, I haven’t run out of things to say. My absence has been more a matter of ‘technical difficulties’.
My readers assume, rightly, that I am the source of the material in my columns. My views, my thoughts, my opinions. But there’s a bit of a dirty secret I’ve been keeping to myself which I think needs to be divulged and it’s this: I can’t type. There. I said it. The air is once again clear.
If you think about it the reason should be fairly obvious. Typewriters are made for animals with fingers, like people, and monkeys, though I don’t know a lot of monkeys who can type, but then I don’t know a lot of monkeys period, so maybe some of them can. I’ll ask around. Anyway, dogs have paws with short toes that are almost stuck together. Great for running, digging, and most of the other important stuff we do. Not so good for typing. Terrible, actually.
So in order for me to get my pieces ‘up-loaded’ as they say, I have to rely on the Doc. He’s like my personal stenographer. I tell him what I want to say, he types it into the computer and does the up-load. (Good thing because computers aren’t particularly dog-friendly, either.)
And before you go jumping to any morbid conclusions let me set you straight. He’s fine, too. No hospital, except for when he has to go to work, no horrible, debilitating illness, no advanced dementia, (though I’ve noticed he’s been losing his glasses a lot lately). No. He’s been right here and if anything he’s been spending more time at the computer than usual. Lots more, actually. But he’s not writing. He’s watching some weird movie with people talking about a lot of stuff I don’t quite understand and showing disgusting pictures of rashes, broken bones, swollen eyes, it goes on and on. And while he watches and listens he makes notes in this book that has all the same pictures in it that are in the movie thing he’s watching. It does not look like fun, even for someone who does what he does for a living.
I tried to get him to deal with my column. Gently, subtly at first. Cleared my throat, gave him the chin on the leg with the twitching eyebrow routine. Day after day. Useless. Finally I just started barking.
“Kaya, I’m trying to study here, OK!?”
“What’s that?” I asked. “I mean, really, whatever it is looks bad. Why would you want to spend so much time doing something that is clearly no fun whatsoever?”
“Fine,” he said, dropping his pen and shutting the picture book. “Let me explain.”
What he told me was a real eye-opener, and more affirmation that as the dog in this relationship I have it relatively made. Here’s what it was:
The job he does, being an ER doctor, (sort of like a vet but at the place they took me when I needed the stitches, not the place I go for check-ups and shots), requires him to be Board Certified. This means he has to pass a test that shows he knows what he’s doing. Probably a good idea. I’m pretty sure the vet had to pass a few tests herself.
But the test isn’t just a one-time thing. Pass the test once, work forever. Not even. He said he has to take the test every ten years, and this year it will be ten years since he passed it the last time so he has to do it again.
“So what’s the big deal?”
“What’s the problem? You took the thing before, I’m pretty sure they’re going to ask you the same stuff they did the last time, so all you have to do is give the same answers and you’re done. Right?”
He got this pathetic look on his face and ran his hand through his hair, trying, I guess, to find a way around my impeccable logic.
“You don’t get it. You’re a dog.”
“Enlighten me. And watch the snide dog remarks,” I answered with a soft growl.
“You’re right, sorry. OK. Look. What I do is kinda complicated. There’s a lot to know. There are things I’m expected to be able to handle even if I only see them once or twice in my career. That’s the sort of stuff they like to ask questions about on the test, and it’s the stuff that’s the hardest to remember from one test to the next because it’s uncommon and I almost never, or for some things actually never, see them. So each time I have to take the test I have to study to refresh all those weird, unusual details. And I’m pretty sure they make the test every ten years because they figured out somehow that it takes ten years to forget the minutia you crammed into your head the last time around. Understand?”
I thought about it for a minute before responding. Of course I understood what he said, what I was having a hard time understanding was why he would put himself in this situation in the first place.
“Yes, and no,” I said after the pause. “I get it about the test and why you have to spend all this time studying. But wouldn’t it have been better, back when you were trying to decide what to do with yourself, if you’d chosen something a little more intuitive?”
Again with the ‘huh’. “Look, what you’re doing is very un-dog. A dog doesn’t spend his puppyhood wondering what he’s going to be when he grows up, then spend some of the best years of his life studying to be a cat.”
I let that lie there for a minute, hoping he’d figure it out. The look on his face suggested I’d be waiting a long time.
“Let me put it another way. When I was a puppy, all I wanted to be was a puppy. It was a lot of fun, most of the time, except for the tied-to-the tree thing with the weirdos. As a grown-up, I am perfectly content being what I am, a dog. I devote myself to doing the things that make sense to me. I chase squirrels, bury stuff, dig it back up, take naps, and, when you are not being preoccupied, keep up with my correspondence. I don’t want to be anything else. Even the dogs I know that spend time in school are just learning how to do the things they already know how to do, like chase people and sniff out strange smells, a little better or in some organized way. They are not learning to be giraffes or kangaroos.”
I saw a hint of a smile. “Finally,” I thought, “he’s beginning to get it.”
“So, let’s see if I have this right. You think that my studying to be a doctor is the same thing as you studying to be a different species. That it?”
“Bingo. A lot of you humans seem to think you need to be something other than what you are in order to be happy, or worthwhile, or whatever. You never seem to consider that if something is so difficult to do, so un-natural, maybe you shouldn’t do it.”
“It’s our nature to be curious. Some of us feel the need to push ourselves. Some push harder than others. For people like that, like me, the harder you have to work at something the more gratifying it is when you achieve the goal.”
Once again I felt the warm flush of contented dog-ness wash over me. I am not driven to do the impossible, or even the ridiculously difficult. I get tremendous satisfaction from the things that come naturally. I suppose if I were human I’d be called a weirdo or a bum. But I’m not. Because I’m a dog. I felt my tail wagging.
“OK, whatever works for you,” I said, grinning, “but first, how about taking a little dictation?”