A FEW YEARS AGO, we had a golden retriever. His name was, and here I must pause for effect … Bond, James Bond.
No, we didn’t call him 007. That would be a little silly, don’t you think? Calling a dog by his code name? It would give away his identity to all the other dogs. What good would he be then?
I don’t know why he was called that. No, not Bond, James Bond. I know why he was called that. Because what better moniker for an ungainly four-legged lug than that of a worldly, debonair secret agent?
What I don’t know is why he was called a golden retriever. He was neither golden nor a retriever. He was more of a sienna hue, and he steadfastly didn’t retrieve. When we would play fetch, I’d hurl a branch and he’d dash after it and then, when he got to the spot, look down at it with a look of wonder on his face.
“Bring the stick,” I’d say, trying to sound encouraging because I didn’t want to damage his self-esteem. “Come on. Bring the stick.”
But he would just look at the stick. Then at me. Then back down at the stick. Then again at me.
“The stick,” I’d say more emphatically. “Bring it back.”
Like Mr. Jones in Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” he knew something was going on, but he didn’t know what it was. His tail would wag as if he thought he knew. But clearly he didn’t.
“Bond,” I’d holler. “Pick. Up. The. Stick. Bring. Stick. To. Me.”
I felt a little stupid, I’ll admit, talking to him that way. It was like how you’d talk to someone who doesn’t understand your language. You slow down your words and speak louder. And they look at you with the same expression Bond, James Bond had on his face, as if saying, “Holler. If. You. Want. I. Still. Have. No. Clue. What. You. Are. Saying.”
Finally, I would march out to the stick, reach down, pick it up, show it to him, and then march back to where I was standing. “There,” I’d say. “That is what you are supposed to do. Except, because you don’t have hands, you pick it up with your mouth. It’s called fetch. Okay?”
Inevitably, someone would walk by as this happened, and I would feel stupid for talking to a dog — and bad for talking to a dog so condescendingly. Once the person was out of earshot, I’d continue.
“Look, you’re a retriever. Know what that means? It means you,” and here I would stretch the word out, “reee-triieeeve. Got it?”
BOND, JAMES BOND came to mind the other day as I was reading about, and here I must pause for Fakey Movie-Guy Voice … ANIMALS IN THE NEWS.
Remember the glow-in-the-dark pig they developed a year or so ago? Something about protein … helping mankind … yada, yada? Well, the pig had 11 babies. Two of them glow in the dark.
Hold your awww’s for a minute. I realize that there are few stories as heartwarming as a glow-in-the-dark-piglet story, but we are talking Implications.
For millennia, pigs have had the skin tone of Scandinavians. What if goodly numbers suddenly start having different, um, pigmentation? Will the Scandinavian-complected pigs treat the fluorescent pigs as lesser, or vice versa?
And this is but one issue that keen-eyed animal-story watchers will want to keep a keen eye on.
ANOTHER ITEM of interest is, of course, the happy-hour-rats study. It seems some enterprising scientists in Chile have, in the words of Anna Davison of Technology Review, “succeeded in keeping the drinking habits of alcoholic rats in check using gene therapy.”
To which I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Yaaay. Woo-hoo! Way to go.”
Waitress? Another round!
A toast! To fewer alcoholic rats getting sloppy drunk at closing time, playing weepy country songs on the jukebox, and slurring really bad pickup lines just before their heads hit the bar as they pass out.
There’s something in the study about humans … gene therapy … behavioral approaches … yada, yada. That’s all great. But I think anyone who has ever been drinking with a rat can agree that reducing the number of alcoholic rats is achievement enough.
THE QUESTION, though, is how Bond, James Bond figures into all this newfound animal experimentation. The answer is obvious.
Maybe he would have been happier if he’d glowed in the dark and drunk too much. Maybe he wasn’t meant to retrieve. Maybe he could be one of a new breed of fluorescent “retriever,” a breed that is not expected to retrieve — dogs that can be who they are, unencumbered by society’s expectations.
When that glorious day comes —when the Bond, James Bonds of the world no longer have to look dumbfounded at a hurled stick on the ground in front of them and wonder, What. Do. They. Expect. Of. Me? — the drink will flow in celebration.
And we will need a little of that rodent gene therapy to keep all those liberated dogs from howling too much at the moon.
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