Some people worry about artificial intelligence becoming so powerful, devilishly smart computers will rule humanity. I've got a more pressing immediate problem: I'm under the control of our dog, and I'm powerless to do anything about it.
ZuZu looks innocent, doesn't she? Well, let me tell you, looks deceive. Particularly when it comes to canines. ZuZu is a master manipulator.
My wife, Laurel, is a volunteer at the Willamette Humane Society here in Salem, Oregon. She's got the exalted rank of a "blue" walker, which means she can handle the most difficult dogs.
If I volunteered there I can't imagine what lowly color they'd give me. White? Translucent? Transparent?
Laurel has done her best to teach me how to be the Alpha Dog with ZuZu. So far, spectacularly unsuccessfully. We used to watch the Dog Whisperer, a TV show where dog trainer Cesar Milan would try to help people who were clueless about how to handle their canine pets.
I'd laugh at what they were doing wrong. Which often, if not usually, turned out to be what I was doing with our dog at the time, ZuZu's predecessor. So the laugh really was on me.
Here's two examples of how ZuZu handles me with exquisite skill.
Deciding where to go on a dog walk. We live on ten rural acres. Laurel walks ZuZu in the morning. I walk her in the evening. There's two basic choices for a dog walk: dirt trails, or on the road.
Going on the road entails a 2 mile loop, or maybe a bit shorter if we take a shortcut via a dirt trail. ZuZu is happy with either a trail or a road walk, but she clearly has a preference for one or the other, depending on some sort of mysterious dog mood.
If I'm tired, or just don't feel like a 2 mile road walk for some other reason, once ZuZu and I get outside our front door I'll head down a walkway that leads to the dirt trail.
As soon as ZuZu can tell that I'm going in that direction, if she's itching for a road walk she stands absolutely still and gets the most amazingly sad look on her face. I can't even begin to describe it. It's like she just got the worst possible news, such as a malignant cancer diagnosis that leaves her three days to live.
Her entire demeanor, her body language, shifts from "Oh, boy, I'm going on a walk!"
ZuZu then looks like the canine version of a French existentialist philosopher holding forth in a Paris coffee house, sipping strong expresso, smoking an unfiltered cigarette, expounding on the utter meaninglessness of life.
"Ah, we are born, we die, and in-between, nothing but despair, anguish, and...trail walks."
When I give in, which is almost immediately, and begin walking toward the road, ZuZu's mood becomes instantaneously joyous. She bounds up the driveway, looking back with what seems to me to be a happy smug look of Won Again!
Getting patted. ZuZu isn't a hugely affectionate dog. My wife is disappointed that ZuZu doesn't like to lick her face, as many dogs at the Humane Society do.
ZuZu also doesn't like too much physical closeness, which might come from her being one-half German Shepherd. She has a decided independent streak. ZuZu isn't a dog who lays on the floor with her head in your lap. (She's about 60 pounds, so having her sit on our lap while we sit in a chair is pretty much out of the question.)
What ZuZu does like, patting-wise, is this:
Several times a day -- it seems like a million -- she lays on her back with her legs splayed out and her stomach exposed in what would be a come hither look if she were a brazen female seductress, which, now that I think about it, she is in a way.
What ZuZu wants from us is patting. She loves to have her tummy scratched, along with the area under her chin.
Ordinarily I'm fine with taking a few minutes out of my retired senior citizen day to pat ZuZu when she does this. But sometimes she pulls this trick when I'm sitting at a table eating dinner or immersed in writing a vitally important blog post, like this one.
If I ignore her canine pat me posture, ZuZu will up the ante by wagging her tail so it slaps against the floor. That creates a multi-sensory pat me demand, both sight and sound. At which point (you can guess what I'm about to say) I stop eating or writing, go over to ZuZu, kneel on the floor, and scratch her on the stomach and under her chin.
And not only once, but as many times as ZuZu pulls this trick, because I find it impossible to not pat her when she rolls on her back and wags her tail.
Like I said in the title of this blog post, this doesn't come close to enumerating the ways ZuZu controls me. I'm resigned to being the Beta Dog in our relationship (and that's only because we just have one dog, otherwise I'd be the Omega Dog).
Plus, ZuZu spreads fake news about my wife and me. But that's a whole other story.