Friday, Sep 30, 2016
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Opinion

Dog world lends ear to tale of Rico

So, we're sitting on the couch yesterday morning, reading the newspaper and having coffee.

Well, I'm having coffee. Roscoe is having his usual: an industrial-strength nylon chewy thing.

"Lookee here," I say, and he drops the chew toy long enough to sidle up alongside me and look at Page A5.

"Says here there's a border collie with a real gift for language."

A dachshund, Roscoe is neither easily impressed nor intimidated by other dogs.

Not even border collies.

Still, he sits beside me long enough to speed read through the story about Rico, the dog with a 200-word vocabulary and an apparent ability to perform simple logic.

When Roscoe is finished, he gives a condescending little snort before he resumes gnawing, leaving me to finish the article alone, but by now I'm used to him reading faster than me.

"Wow!" I say, marveling at the subject dog's uncanny abilities. "This article says Rico not only can remember the names of some 200 objects, but he can even figure out the name of a new object by the unfamiliarity of the sound of its name. He can deduce! Amazing!"

From Roscoe, another demi-snort.

''Big whoop," he grumbles. "Some dog knows the name for 200 thingies. Like that's some big feat."

"Roscoe," I say, growing exasperated, "you are such a snob! This dog's accomplishments are noteworthy enough to be written up in Science, which is a very prestigious journal. They say Rico might be the Albert Einstein of dogs!"

Another snort, then Roscoe pronounced: "Science, shmience. Truth is, any dog who doesn't know at least 200 human words is a piker, and any dog worth his kibble knows it. You people. Sooo gullible."

Right then, I knew I'd been right all along. I knew that, all this time, my dog had simply been ... blowing me off.

"So, if you know so many human words, why do you just sit there like a stump whenever I tell you to get off the couch, or to stop chewing my shoes, or barking at the mail carrier, or - well, you get the idea."

This time, Roscoe said nothing. He didn't even look at me. He sat there on the couch, gnawing a piece of hard nylon, just as if I hadn't said a word.

"If I didn't know better, you mutt, I'd say you don't understand anything I'm saying, and that's the truth."

That did it. He rose to the bait. (He may know a lot of words and even read faster than me, but he's still pretty easy to psych out. Ask any squirrel.)

"You can't handle the truth!" Roscoe barked in his best Jack Nicholson imitation, which, for a dachshund, comes all too easily. "The truth is, every canine on this planet is mad at Rico. He violated the oath and spilled the beans! Now you people are going to want to sit and have conversations, instead of throwing sticks. That border collie betrayed the species."

"Oh, right," I scoffed. "Tell me this: If you're so smart, why do you go to the bathroom outside? Hmm? Answer that one, dogbreath!"

He gave another one of those condescending little dachshund snorts, and then, as God is my witness, he smiled.

"Oh," he said, "I don't."

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Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Watch her on-air column Wednesdays during the 6 p.m. news on WTVG, Channel 13.

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