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What is the Ideal Dog?

(January 05, 2004)

On Thursday, May 29, 2003, I traveled to Los Angeles for the day. The occasion was a trade convention called BookExpo America, and the reason I went was to talk to a publisher about a book deal.

I had arranged to meet the publisher in the early evening, but I arrived at the convention center with several hours to spare. The extra time was not a problem, as I was working on a new book for which I had recorded some interviews, and I had brought a small tape recorder, so I could listen to the tapes.

So, machine in hand, I wandered down one of the hallways, looking for an empty room in which I might pass some time alone.

As I was walking, my attention was captured by a reedy voice coming from a large room across the hall. I looked over and saw a sign, "Annual Meeting of the American Animal Association". Another, smaller sign announced that the guest speaker, T.L. Nipper, an eminent zoological expert, was scheduled to talk in just a few moments.

I poked my head inside the room and saw that it was filled to capacity. Although I had never heard of T.L. Nipper, he was apparently well known to the members of the American Animal Association: a large roomful of people were eagerly awaiting his arrival.

The person with the reedy voice continued talking, but the room was noisy with an expectant restlessness, and I was able to catch only a few fragments of what he was saying: "...The greatest animal expert of modern times... unrivaled insight... penetrating wisdom... years of experience... an honor to introduce to you..."; and so on.

I realized that the speaker was about to introduce T.L. Nipper, and since I had my tape recorder handy, it was the work of a moment for me to slip in a blank tape, turn on the machine, and squeeze into the room, where I managed to stand unobtrusively against the back wall.

No sooner had I got myself situated than I heard a new voice. I was too far from the front to see over the heads of the crowd, but I could tell by the cries of welcome that T.L. Nipper had mounted the podium. Evidently, the audience considered him to be someone special (and, as you will see, this was very much the case).

Nipper was a true master and a great entertainer. He spoke for some time, astonishing — and delighting — everyone in the room with his wisdom, insight and humor. When I got home the next day, I listened to the tape. I decided that the speech was so important, that I should transcribe it and put it on my Web site.

So here you have it, T.L. Nipper's speech, transcribed to the best of my ability, exactly as I heard it, standing at the back of a crowded room during the annual meeting of the American Animal Association, on Thursday, May 29, 2003.

"Ladies, Gentlemen, and any animals that may be present this afternoon. It is an honor to address you today on one of the seminal questions of our time:

"What is the ideal dog?

"I am sure many of you are wondering, why is this such an important question? Why should I care about the ideal dog? If you will have the patience to bear with me, the answer, and the insight it affords us, will be forthcoming.

"What I will say now is that, by exploring and answering this question, we will be led into the depths of both human and animal psychology and, I daresay, you will all go home today with a great deal more insight than you have at this moment.

"For the balance of this talk, I would like you to forget all that you believe to be true about dogs and their limitations. For the next twenty minutes, I want you to let your imagination and your dreams run free.

"Let us now, then, consider the question: if we could create an ideal dog, what would he be like?

"To start, an ideal dog would have a strong sense of family. Not only should he be domesticated, but he should have a pleasing personality, neither too brash, nor too withdrawn. He should enjoy being with people, but he should have some measure of independence.

"For example, when you go away on a trip, your dog should be content to live on his own until you return. He should never get so lonely and upset that — just because he is left alone — he destroys furniture and makes a mess of your house.

"Although an ideal dog will want to be with you and your family, if you need to be alone, he will respect that, and not force you to pay attention to him when you are not in the mood.

"What else? In a more practical sense, we would expect the ideal dog to be tidy. If possible, he should even be able to clean himself. As animal lovers, you all know that bathing dogs can be a difficult and unpleasant exercise. With an ideal dog, this need should be eliminated.

"Similarly, an ideal dog should be easy to house train. In fact, he should be able to take care of his needs in a discreet fashion, using only a small container, one which you can empty from time to time at your convenience.

"True, it can be fun to take your dog for a walk. However, when you have to do so one or more times a day, every day, it is a lot of trouble. With an ideal dog, this would not be necessary.

"What else? We have all had the experience of having people come to our door, causing the dog to bark incessantly. Even worse, once the visitors come inside, the dog jumps on them and runs all over the place, scaring children and old people.

"In my opinion, the ideal dog would be well-behaved at all times. When a visitor enters the house, such a dog would be respectfully quiet. Indeed, until a stranger is properly introduced to a dog, the animal should remain withdrawn, with a calm dignity, allowing you to greet your guests in an environment of peaceful quiet.

"In a similar vein, an ideal dog should show some measure of affection towards you, as his owner. However, he should never be pushy, loud or overbearing.

"He should, however, be responsive to your feelings. When you are in need of company, an ideal dog should devote himself to being a good companion. During those times when you need to be alone, he should be respectful of your need for privacy. The ideal dog should enjoy being with you, but will be content to be alone whenever it suits your plans.

"When it comes to daily care, the ideal dog will require as little personal attention as possible. For example, he will be prudent when it comes to eating. You should be able to leave him a large amount of food, knowing that he will eat wisely, a bit at a time.

"This means that you will be able to leave your dog alone when necessary, even for several days. For longer periods, it will be enough to have someone come by once in a while for just a few moments.

"Finally, the ideal dog should be cute, cuddly, and just the right size: neither too small, nor too large. For example, he should be large enough to take care of himself with other animals, but small enough to sit in your lap should you desire to hold him.

"By now, my friends, I know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself, all of these characteristics are desirable, but is it realistic to talk of the ideal dog? Is it really possible to find such a creature?

"To answer this question, let us review our list.

"An ideal dog is domesticated and fits into a family. However, he has a balanced personality, neither too clingy, nor too independent.

"An ideal dog should be able to live alone without making a mess. He should be able to clean himself and be naturally house-trained. He should not require regular walks.

"An ideal dog should be appropriately affectionate, but he will never be obnoxiously demanding. When guests visit, he will not make loud noises; nor will he jump all over people he does not know.

"An ideal dog will require little attention. You should be able to leave him alone, with nothing more than food and water, and have him do well until your return.

"And, finally, an ideal dog should be attractive, cuddly and just the right size.

"By now I imagine you are saying to yourself, such a dog would be wonderful, but could we ever find one?

"The answer is yes. Think over the list of desirable traits and you will see that it is possible to have an ideal dog.

"How? I submit to you — my fellow members of the American Animal Association — that when you consider the list of desirable traits, you will reach the same conclusion that I did: it is possible to have an ideal dog.

"And the full explanation of why this is possible is to be found in my new book — this very book that I am holding in my hands right now — a book entitled, "The Ideal Dog is a Cat!"

[At this point, the speaker was interrupted by several minutes of wild applause and sustained cheering.]

"Thank you, thank you, my friends. I truly appreciate your kind and enthusiastic response to my humble words of wisdom.

"I should now like to turn the meeting over to our chairman. For those of you who would like to talk, I will be pleased to stay for a few more moments, to answer any questions you may have and to sign copies of my new book."

For more information, visit... T.L.Nipper's Web site

Stories by Harley Hahn

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