Last month, a major bank sent my dog a credit card. I can’t say where they got her name, can’t even begin to guess. But there it is, Fafnir Freedman at our address. Pre-approved. It would be activated automatically by its first transaction. There didn’t appear to be anything I could do.
That night we all went to bed around midnight as usual. I sleep in the middle of my bed. The cat, curled into a circular pillow, slightly overstuffed, on my right, the dog laid out on my left. I was exhausted by a day of paperwork and passed out in minutes.
Around 3, I woke abruptly. The cat had not moved. The dog was however nowhere to be found.
Then I heard key-clicking in the small second bedroom I use as an office, and a peculiar voice, somewhere between a whine and a snarling growl, it seemed to stop just short of forming words.
I got as far as the office doorway. Standing in front of the keyboard. paws on the edge of the desk, Fafnir’s eyes were riveted on the screen. A title told me the whole, lurid story.
“The Last Thing They Want Their Dogs To Know! How One Weird Trick Can Give Them Thumbs!”
There was an empty rectangle outlined on the screen below the title. An animated hand appeared in it. Moving with impossible rapidity, in sync with the voice, it drew pictures of dogs with hands at the ends of their forelegs driving cars, opening dogfood cans, typing at keyboards, opening front doors from the inside, taking other dogs for walks.
“Oh, no,” I thought. “She clicked on a ‘one weird trick’ link!”
Just as I had feared, Fafnir’s eyes were glazed. Her tongue hung out the side of her mouth. She was completely hypnotized, unable to look away from the relentless animation on the screen.
The Dog Whisperer was proven right, once again. He has regularly said, Dogs do not think. (He says, they react. But that part isn’t relevant right here and now.) Fafnir is among the world’s sweetest dogs, but she has the intelligence of a palm tree. Also, she’s more than a little obsessive. If she gets some idea that she wants something, she goes after it and doesn’t let up until she’s got it. More often than not, she lets up then and leaves it lying in the middle of a doorway, but that’s not relevant right now, either.)
Geneticists have a field day looking at dogs’ DNA. The differences between breeds must be miniscule, but are sure to be telling. It’s funny. One of the first announced DNA “discoveries” was that all dogs were made from wolves. In those days, when DNA research began, there was a debate going on as to the Origin of Dogs. Everyone knew that dogs had been made out of wolves, primarily, but there were some who believed they could see coyote traits in some dog breeds, or hyena traits in others. So when word came down that all dogs had been bred from wolves alone, and that there was no trace of coyote or hyena genetic material to be found in any dog at all and never would be, it rocked a few lives. I wonder if anybody’s looked at doggy genes since. between, say. between chihuahuas and German shepherds, or between Dobermans and Irish setters. Individual genes must be involved here, one byte more or less defining the difference between soft-eyed, gentle, smiling dogs patient with adults and coddling with toddlers and sleek, black, ravening killers. I suppose. So far, no one’s told me anything about this and I’d love it if they would.
Despite repeated teases that the ‘one weird trick’ would be revealed any second, the animation rattled on, a hip-hop anthem relentlessly hitting the points of opposable thumb domination and leaving no off-beats, no respite from the driving rhythm. Now I can’t distract her. I’m positive: the only ‘weird trick’ here is that one click unleashes a 30-minute unpausable hypnotic harangue. I debate pulling the plug.
Suddenly, a great clatter erupted on the far edge of the desk. It startled me, and I fell backwards and landed on the floor. Looking up, I saw the cat staring down at me. She looked somehow desperate, as if she knew something had to be done about this, immediately.
“Meow!” she said. If anything, it confirmed my impression.
“Then do it!” I was stressed to my limit. It was time to find out, definitively, if cats think or not.
The cat studied my expression, or my demeanor, or my aura, or whatever it is that cats study at these moments, and then she acted. Holding down the “Alt” key with her right rear foot, she arched across the keyboard and stepped with great accuracy on the “f4” function key.
Instantly, the browser disappeared. The prattling sound track vanished.
The silence was shocking. Fafnir stood unmoving for ten seconds, staring at the screen which showed only the desktop. Slowly, her face tilted downward, until her nose touched the space bar. She shook her head. Her eyes cleared. She looked down at me, and licked my face smack on my lips.
“Meow,” said the cat, who jumped down and headed for the kitchen and her full bowl of Crunchies.
“Good thing she’s around,” I said to Fafnir. “All that thing would’ve done was convince you something had changed, and you had thumbs on your forepaws. You’re confused enough as it is.” Fafnir smiled happily and trotted ahead, toward the kitchen.
Cats think. They have no language, however, so we’ll never know exactly what it is they think.