Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Tricks

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

I was only twenty when I reached the height of my career. I was the guy who figured out the thing with dogs and fences. You're young, so you probably take it for granted that dogs can build fences, but it wasn't always so. We'd known for, who knows how long (millennia?), that dogs could be trained to attack, to guard things, sit up, roll over, all that stuff. We figured we'd reached the extent of their abilities. But I found out we hadn't. While a young dog trainer, my dogs watched with fascination as I built a fence around my yard. Before I could finish, I received a call and went inside. When I came back I found my dogs eagerly continuing my work and doing a damned good job. Who knew? Play dead, shake hands, build a fence.

I got a lot of work after that, at first from fence builders who wanted free labor, but soon everyone wanted to teach their dog the new trick. It was all picket by the way. The dogs hated wire, especially electric and barbed. I became rich, I became famous, but there's one other thing I became: a one-trick pony. How do you follow an act like that?

I'm sixty-five years old now, a legend and a has-been all in one. I've spent the last four decades searching for the next big trick and breaking records for piling up failures. Just so you don't waste your time, here's a few things dogs definitely can't do:

1. Your taxes
2. Make a decent pasta salad
3. Disembowel a burro with a mechanical pencil
4. Tell a joke in mixed company
5. Spread jam on a broken television set

They still hold some secrets, the wily bastards, you can see it in their eyes. I leave it to you, the future generations, to continue my work if I should die before discovering the next new trick. And don't any of you try taking credit for the diet cola formula they seem to all know innately. The aftertaste is like ass.

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