Barking up the wrong tree
Let me confess with that searing honesty for which I’m known from one end of my room to the other, that I don’t give a fig or any other fruit what my dog is thinking. He has three basic thoughts, as far as I’m concerned: “I’m hungry, feed me,” is one. Then, “I am sleepy, leave me alone”. And finally there’s one I can’t mention without upsetting you, gentle reader, in this family magazine.
So why do I need a Scandinavian research lab to make some headphones that will translate the pet’s thoughts into human language? And how does it help me if that language is Swedish? I can understand my pet rather better than I can understand Swedish. The answer, they say, lies in translation. But what if something gets lost in the process? I mean, I can see my pet is hungry, but my headphones translate that dog thought into something like, “I want to watch a movie starring MarkWahlberg”, and man’s best friend suddenly turns into something at the other end of the scale.
Dogs don’t use gadgets made by Scandinavian research labs to understand what I’m thinking. As far as they’re concerned, I too have only three thoughts: “Here’s food, don’t waste it”; “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you”; and, “The gate is open you knucklehead, go for your party but return before breakfast”.
How will dogs react if they realise that occasionally we wonder about quantum mechanics, quote poetry by Houseman or plan to accidentally ruin our business rivals? Will they ever look at us with the same awe and respect? Or will they try to somehow get across to us the message – through the Scandinavian research lab – that all physics is bunk, Houseman was highly overrated and honesty is the best policy?
And what if we realise when dipping into dog thoughts that they are more intelligent than we are, that they have already answered the philosophical questions we have been grappling with for centuries and that they think we are their pets and not as it appears in our literature?
Then there are dogs that watch too much television. Perhaps, inspired by all the violence on the screen, they might decide to send us a simple message – through the Scandinavian research lab’s gizmo – something like, “Drop a box of unmarked bones near the lamp post and no harm will come to you…”
On the whole, I would suggest, leave dogs alone. Also, cats, pigeons, field mice, tsetse flies and hippopotami. After all, who wants to hear a duck-billed platypus think? It is a privacy issue. Ours, not theirs.
Suresh Menon is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is.