The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, February 18, 2004  

All of Her Own Accord
And Then the Daycare Thing

It’s amazing, I think, when my bulldog, Mildred, who is nine cents short of a dime, knows, without any indication from me whatsoever, that’s she’s in the proverbial doghouse.

Earlier this morning Mildred engaged in an extremely rare act of disobedience: She apparently pulled a food bag out of the cabinet, spilled its contents onto the kitchen floor, and sat down for a little binge.

I didn’t witness the event, but I saw plenty of evidence, and Mildred knows better. And I know Mildred knew she misbehaved because when I arrived at the scene she was sitting in her self-imposed “time out” chair, not the chair she prefers.

In the absence of eyewitness testimony, I thought it was inappropriate to scold her or punish her, so I decided to ignore her. Eventually she made her way to the bedroom, and later I went in to lift her up on to the bed. (It’s very high; she can’t make the jump on her own.)

Now here I am in my office, not 50 feet away, eating potato chips (yes, at 10:30 a.m.), and I know Mildred can hear me eating them, and I know she knows what I’m eating, and I know she knows that she really likes them, and I know she knows that she always gets at least two or three bits of almost everything I eat, and she has yet to emerge from the bedroom.

And, no -- and this is to those who really know Mildred, either in person or through the blog -- she is not sleeping. I checked. Twice. She’s in the doghouse, and she knows it, and yet I didn’t put her there.

One more thing: That whole “let’s switch Mildred back to the diet dog food” thing I was talking about? Project abandoned. It was just too much. Way too much.

By the way, saying Mildred is “nine cents short of a dime” reminds me of her days in a certain uptown Manhattan daycare center.

After Mildred had attended the carefully preselected preschool for more than a year (that’s how things “work” there), a new student, André, I believe his name was, entered the class.

Like Mildred, André was a bulldog. Like Mildred, André was mostly white in coloring. And like Mildred, André apparently wasn’t very bright.

During the early weeks after André’s initial enrollment the teachers told me Mildred, as is her wont with the little guys, took to André immediately. Mildred graciously took him under her wing, so to speak. André was pleased by the attention and happy to learn the ways of the world from so elegant an older woman. “Mildred’s showing him around,” they said. “She’s teaching him the ropes.”

I said, through my teeth, “Really? That’s wonderful!”

But I thought to myself, “Oh, this can’t be good.”

And indeed it wasn’t.

André’s parents owners soon discerned what was happening, and not long thereafter Mildred came home with a note. (Now, I should say that Mildred bringing a note home is a really big deal, not only because she is extraordinarily well behaved but also because she lacks opposable thumbs, making the transport of such a note rather complicated, to say the least.)

The note read, in relevant part:

It has been suggested to us that the proper and appropriate physical and mental development of one of our new students, namely André, would be best pursued without the, shall we say, interference of your daughter pet, Mildred.

Parents Owners have asked questions about her developmental and occupational status and potential. Moreover, issues of hygiene also have been raised.

Having known, worked with, and instructed Mildred in, well, the lesser of our vocational arts for more than a year, we must say that we concur with the parents’ owners’ assessment.

As such, be advised we shall henceforth discourage and, if necessary, disrupt, any and all contact between André and Mildred.

And do you know what? Stupid, naïve idiot that I was, I bought into the whole thing. I felt horrible and guilty, not for having subjected Mildred to such absurd and unwarranted scrutiny, but rather for having delayed André’s incipient development into some sort of brilliant champion show dog.

New York does that to people. Even to dogs. And that’s why I live in Philadelphia.

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