Friday 09 Dec 2016

Mistress of the Remote
AJ Robinson

I think I may have underestimated Juliet, my dog. Now sure, she’s a bit dim in the old brain box, and the squirrels are easily able to confuse her. And sure, she runs crying and wailing from any cat that stands up to her, but I’m beginning to suspect that she’s not as dumb as I thought. Just the other day, my wife and I caught her showing off her intellect.

She tried to use the television remote.

The first time she did it, we didn’t take much note. After all, believing our capable of using the remote is like expecting a fish to climb a tree. It’s a complete and total oxymoron! Then came her next attempt and this caught our attention. She stepped on the remote and then cast her eyes toward the television. We then recalled her previous attempt at tuning the television and realized she had to know how to use the remote, in some way.

It seems our dear pet isn’t quite as dim as we first thought. The next question on our minds was this: What television shows does she like? My first thought was an obvious one: Animal Planet.

We also wondered: how would she respond to a dog or cat on television? Well, that was easy enough to test. We just tuned the television to a channel with some animals and waited for her reaction. Yeah, she looked around to find the barking dog, but she didn’t seem to be able to focus on them on the screen. It was the same with the cats.

Then I got an idea. Although dogs are thought colour blind, I still figured that a cartoon would get her attention. I tried some classics: a couple of nice “Bugs Bunny” cartoons. She was less than impressed. Likewise, she didn’t care for “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons.” Then I hit on an idea, which I thought was a stroke of genius, I’d put on “Scooby-Doo.” I mean, come on, what dog wouldn’t watch that?

It turned out Juliet was not the least bit interested.

I gave up. I figured there was no television show that Juliet would watch. She’d play with the remote, turn the television on and even flip channels, but she’d never actually watch anything.

Then, quite by chance, I was watching my favourite show and I heard a slight grumble behind me. Turning, I saw Juliet scratching an itch and taking a seat. She was watching the show. I smiled. It was nice to know that she had such good taste in television.

We sat and watched the entire show. She stayed right at my side, and actually focused on the screen. The only times she looked away was when the commercials came on. Even the dog food ads didn’t impress her.

Finally, the show was over and she got up and left. I was glad that the first episode she saw was that particular one. It was a very special one, the fiftieth anniversary one.

After that, I got an idea. I’d arrange a little test to see which one was her favorite. I popped in a DVD and showed her the pilot. She liked it. Then came another episode, featuring a different incarnation, then another and another and still another. With each incident, I noted her reaction. It took a while to present her with samples of all twelve versions, but I finally did it and I was very pleased with the results.

You see, among Whovians, we have a saying: You never forget your first doctor. Well, for me, my first was number four, played by Tom Baker. As it happens, his version of “The Doctor” is also her favourite. Now, every time an episode of “Doctor Who” comes on, she and I watch it together. If it happens to be a rerun of a Tom Baker story, I can’t swear to it, but she does seem to smile.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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