In a startling development in the canine world today, trainer Oscar Guard claims to have taught a 12-year old Labrador Retriever named “Bullet” a new trick. Bullet apparently has learned how to pick up Guard’s iPod, bring it across the room, turn it on, and press on the control until Guard tells him to stop at his favorite song. Guard further claims that Bullet knows the difference between a CD-R and a CD-RW disk and can transfer tracks from the iPod to his computer.
The reaction was immediate. The Academy of Natural Sciences president Sonya Beakermarker was indignant: “There are rules that govern this universe….scientific rules. One of those is that an old dog simply can’t learn a new trick. Never happens. Since this “claim” involves an iPod, it is quite unlikely that an old dog would have the faintest idea, coaching or not, how to operate it. Not to mention the fact that only about 12% of the American population actually understands the difference between the various computer recording disks, and of those only half can actually successfully use them. Many have taken them back to retail stores and made fools of themselves claiming they don’t work as the 18-year old clerks have simultaneously demonstrated, without saying a word, that they do. We might believe it if he said that his dog could hold a cookie on his nose while Guard tried to make a fool of him, telling him to keep it there. Or that he could fetch a newspaper. But this? It’s a scam, plain and simple.”
Dog trainers across the country were quick to chime in. One such trainer, who wished to remain anonymous, used her dog’s name Mandy as her pseudonym. Mandy said, “I have never, in 27 years of training dogs, ever seen an old dog learn a new trick. I’m sure if it were possible, I would have seen it. Besides, who’s to say this guy doesn’t really have a transistor radio inside his Ipod that he has trained Bullet on. We’re going to have to see proof.”
“Mandy” also noted that most American’s idea of training their dogs is to issue a command, and then when the dog doesn’t obey, to raise their voices. “The tendency is to do this “training” in English, Mandy noted. It is a well known fact that dogs don’t understand English, at least to the best of our knowledge. Yet Americans persist, particularly when in public parks, to demonstrate their dog training finesse by raising their voices and watching their dogs look at them quizzically. She continued, “This is supposed to demonstrate, I suppose, that they have really trained their dogs expertly; it’s just that the dogs can’t hear them well enough. Of course, with dogs having hearing that is at least four times more acute than humans, this supposition is erroneous as well. I don’t doubt that Mr. Guard is probably among those who demonstrate the height of wishful thinking, imagining that their dogs are really obeying them.”
Despite these early reactions, and as the wire services picked up the story, Mr. Guard was inundated with calls from morning talk show producers, wanting to interview his dog.
Morning Show producer Mr. Earnest Connection noted that since dogs and humans are thought to be very similar in their social patterns and interactions, it might be interesting to have psychologists weigh in the issue. One such scientist, Dr. Mark Merrystudy, said, ‘Well this opens up a whole new scientific question. We’ve always thought when people grew older, they naturally slowed down and were less able to learn new skills. If this old dog phenomenon turns out to be true, we’ll know that our older citizens have been fooling us into thinking they couldn’t do as much. Why, they’re lazy, plain and simple. If an old dog can learn a new trick, then an old person can go back to work. You can’t argue with that. It’s just plain logic.”
The U.S. Social Security Administrator, Beatrice Bonnettop had no detailed comment, except to say, “After a little more study, there may be some changes.”
The Stock Market went up 7% in the hour after Bonnettop’s remarks.
And all because of a frisky older fellow named Bullet, who, apparently, wasn’t aware he was an old dog.