Vol. 8, Issue 4, May 11, 2010
Education for the Otiose
The Bentinel

Teaching a New Dog Old Tricks

Ezekiel F. Watley, Esq.

Man's best friend is, by hallowed Tradition, the noble Dog. Long ages of Cohabitation have taught us that our canine Compatriots are matchlessly Loyal and socially Astute, not to Mention gourmands with very eclectic Tastes. Over the many decades of my life, the Watley home and hearth has been graced with a long Procession of canine denizens, including Barnaby, a Brittany Spaniel who carried my Briefcase to Court for many a year; Milou, a fine wire Fox terrier who - craving Adventure that was sorely Lacking in my staid existence - eventually went to Live with a young Belgian reporter; Sampson, a retriever who could Unerringly distinguish between scotches; and of course Toby, who was quite as Larcenous in his heart as my misbegotten Nephew Ephram, though fortunately too Lazy to act upon his proclivities.

The current holder of the post of trusted four-legged Assistant is Baron, a very sensible Irish wolfhound possessed of Remarkable patience, intelligence, and a wonderful ability to block my office door Entirely, thus preventing any unwanted intrusions by my Staff. When he accompanies me to the Office, my days are Indeed measurably improved. But there is, ultimately, More to success than keeping ne'er-do-wells away from the desk (though that is indeed a Vital component!), and so I have decided that it is time to impart to Baron the essentials of our News-paper business. Mind you, while I have trained Many a dog quite successfully, my current Post as Editor is but a recent undertaking in my life, and never before have I attempted to impart journalistic Skills to a dog. But the Approach is surely the same: positive Attitude! No-nonsense Clarity of purpose! Appropriate Rewards for the desired behaviors! And most critically, an attentive and Watchful eye: quickly, double-check that my Spectacles are present!

I begin by walking Baron through the History of the Fourth Estate, with special attention to the vital Role that journalism plays in a Vibrant and healthy democracy. Baron pays dutiful attention to this, sitting Patiently before me as I discourse Engagingly from my chair (pipe in Hand, of course: indispensable Accoutrement for Lecturing!) And now, the test: Steinbeck! Herblock! Mencken! Murrow! Woodward and Bernstein! Ah, each name produces a suitable Flick of the ears: clear sign of Comprehension.

My two-hour lecture Completed, I take Baron on a tour of the news-room. "Behold the International News-ticker!" I gesture, scooping up the paper Ribbon with its cryptically typed Updates from around the globe. But Baron merely takes the ticker-tape in his Mouth, tears it off the Machine, and carefully Consumes it. Hmmm.

"Our Tele-phone, with which our diligent reporters follow up on Leads the Nation over!" I say, gesturing to our top-quality silver-accented Candlestick phone. Baron neatly removes the Device from its stand and stacks it in the wood next to the Fire-place. Hmmm.

"Er, the aforementioned Diligent Reporters themselves!" I say, gesturing to Ephram (nodding on the Couch), his crony Emmett (working on hollowing out a pair of Dice, I believe), and Ernest (I deduce from his Shoes, though I cannot see his face beneath the Racing- sheet that covers his snoring head). But does Baron look to them for counsel, advice, ask Questions? Not a bit of it: with a minor Toss of his leonine head, he sends the Racing sheet into the fire-place, nips Ephram in the posterior, and swallows the Dice, sending all Three of my staff hurtling from the Room in disarray. Hmmm.

I am not certain whether to chide Baron or to - what's This? He has unearthed a bottle from the Couch, beneath where Ephram lay: and what a Bottle - my 1850 Bowmore! How on Earth did Ephram get his hands on that?

The matter is settled, and I reward Baron with a bit of Shortbread as he curls upon the Hearth in my Office. He may not be a Journalist per se, but his Investigative instincts are clearly beyond Reproach.


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