Jewish World Review April 2, 2003 / 29 Adar II, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Do you really want to know what your dog's thinking? | One of the best things about dogs, in my opinion, is that they cannot talk.

That single quality alone makes them superior to children, spouses, bosses and rap musicians. When you pour the same brand of kibble into your dog's bowl that you've poured 2,156 times before, your dog does not curl its lip and declaim: "My good man, this mealy, desiccated drek that you so generously describe as 'food' may indeed contain my daily minimum requirements of vitamins, minerals and other nutritional substances but it has all the flavor nuances of sawdust, which I suspect is a major ingredient. Would it kill you to grill me a pork chop every now and then?"

Without the gift of speech, you dog simply empties his supper dish in silence and then waits until your back is turned and lifts his leg on the sofa, as nature intended.

All of this may change, however, thanks to a new Japanese invention called Bowlingual. The device, which will sell for about $120 when it is released in the U.S. this summer, consists of a 3-inch long wireless microphone that attaches to a dog collar and transmits sounds to a palm-size console that is linked to a database.

The console classifies each bark, growl, woof or whine into various "emotional" categories, including happiness, sadness, frustration, anger, assertion, desire, existential dread and ennui. Actually, I'm making those last two up (I think), but clearly the potential is there to delve (far too) deeply into your dog's emotional state. (The inventor of the gadget, by the way, says that he has no plans to make a similar device for cats -- which would have presumably been called Hisslingual -- on the grounds that cats are "too unpredictable.")

I am not at all sure that it is a good idea to know what our dogs are thinking. What may, on the surface, appear to be a happy-go-lucky pooch may be revealed by Bowlingual to be a deeply troubled, anxiety- ridden canine desperately in need of years of expensive psychoanalysis.

Doctor: Vot hiss it dot seems to be troublink you? (The psychiatrist in this made-up dialogue hails from an obscure Eastern European country where everyone has a speech impediment.)

Dog: It's my tail. I keep chasing it but I never catch it. I feel frustrated, ineffectual, constantly dizzy

Doctor: Ach! And vot hiss it about your tail dot intrigues you so? Doss hit perhaps remind you of your mudder?

Dog: My mother. Don't get me started. I was only eight weeks old when she ran off with Shih Tzu.

Doctor: Gesundheit!

Dog: I didn't sneeze. That's the name of a breed of dog.

Doctor: Ach. Und vere wass yer fodder at the time?

Dog: (Whining and snuffling) I never knew my father. I heard he was hit by a car somewhere in South Florida, but I don't know. I've just felt so unwanted my whole life. Could I have a Kleenex, please?

Doctor (passing the box): But you lif wid a lovink family. They feed you, take you for walks, dey efink let you sleep on da bed, holy cripes.

Dog: I know I have a lot to be thankful for. But sometimes I just feel so angry and, well, chasing my tail is better than biting the bug man.

Doctor: Dees feelinks you haf are notink unusual and notink to be ashamed of. If chasink your tail makes you feel better, den by all means, chase dat booger 'til you drop. It hiss a healthy outlet, dis tail chasink.

Dog: You think so, doc? So there's nothing wrong with me?

Doctor: Oh, I wouldn't go dat far. I tink we'll need to schedule at least 10 or 20 more appointment jes to make chure.

Dog: Thanks, doc. Thanks a lot.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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