What Do You Want 3/19/23

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

Somebody took the time and trouble to train their dog to press certain buttons for certain responses. There seems to be considerable excitement at the thought of training dogs to “talk” and “share their feelings”, but it’s not reality. Based on the videos that have been crossing my path, now it appears that every dog can use these, and express rather complex desires. The mats of these push buttons are increasing in size, taking up considerable space in hallways and rooms so dogs can write novels and discuss the meaning of life.

It’s not hard to teach a dog “step on this and you’ll get a treat”, but I do wonder what happens when the dog won’t stop stepping on it. The dog loves treats, and, just like humans, doesn’t consider the repercussions of too many treats on their health. Just give me treats.

I’ve also begun noticing the inclusion of the word “bitch” in another push button. How could the dog possibly understand the meaning of this button? Clearly, they are being trained for comedic effect. In a recent video, a female voice is saying to a dog, “what do you want?” The dog responds by pressing two buttons consecutively, “treat, bitch”. The owner then becomes upset. “What? No. That’s not nice. We don’t use that word.” Well, clearly you do. The dog didn’t order, unpackage and set up the button itself, so why scold the dog for pressing it?

This is kind of a trivial topic. Somebody is trying to be cute with their dog, but it’s the equivalent of how we treat our kids. I remember growing up with a father who spoke fluent swearese around the house. He was creative in avoiding certain big ones, like the big f-bomb, but I surely got in a lot of trouble the first time I used one of his terms, a word I had heard him say countless times and probably beginning the day that I came home from the hospital (I spent the first two weeks of my life in an incubator, and I turned out fine, ish, if you squint long enough). Of course, my mom’s response was typical, “where did you hear that word?” “Umm, well, I heard dad use it, goddamnit.” I don’t remember the rest of the day.

And did DAD get HIS mouth washed out with soap?

There’s a certain humor in talking about children mimicking foul language. Yes, people record their children using foul language as if it’s a great source of pride and humor, and frankly, foul language doesn’t really bother me. I can’t imagine a movie where the hero takes a round in the shoulder and responding, “Golly gee that sure does hurt a whole heapful!” Studies have even demonstrated that swearing does have health benefits, helping to hold down blood pressure in the person swearing, although I’m guessing that it increases blood pressure in those listening to it. But this kind of mimicry in children goes further than language.

Have you ever seen children of different races playing together? They don’t notice skin color, nor do they demonstrate any distrust in one another. It can be deduced from this that racism and bigotry are learned traits. In a study some years ago, mothers with their babies were approached in a park by a clown, something completely new in the infant’s world. Invariably, the infant looks to their mother to ascertain the correct response. The babies would cry if their mother cried, and laugh if their mother laughed. Intolerance is no different.

Today, our society is teaching each other intolerance and fear. An increasing number of states are passing legislation against cross dressers and homosexuals. Far too many police departments have been demonstrated to be intolerant and brutally treating those of various races (including the department for which I worked towards the most common minority in the area, specifically Native Americans).

Some years ago, a woman I was dating had her daughter taken by child services, illegally in my opinion as there was no evidence of the abuse that was claimed. None the less, to get her daughter back, she had to go through parental training, which I attended with her for emotional support. Perhaps, while new parents are taking Lamaze classes, they should also take classes on raising children. I wonder if parents would be more careful around their children if they knew that their children will pick up their habits, attitudes and language. The sad reality, though, is that for some parents it would backfire as those who are particularly intolerant would use it a train intolerance in their children.


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