Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thurber Tonight: The Pet Department (4)


Here's another paperback edition of The Owl in the Attic, which contains "The Pet Department," of which we have our fourth installment tonight, following nos. (1), (2), and (3).

The Pet Department

Q. The fact that my dog sits this way so often leads me to believe that something is preying on his mind. He seems always to be studying. Would there be any way of finding out what this is?

A. Owing to the artificially complex life led by city dogs of the present day, they tend to lose the simpler systems of intuition which once guided all breeds, and frequently lapse into what comes very close to mental perplexity. I myself have known some very profoundly thoughtful dogs. Usually, however, their problems are not serious and I should judge that your dog has merely mislaid something and wonders where he put it.


Q. We have cats the way most people have mice.

A. I see you have. I can't tell from your communication, however, whether you wish advice or are just boasting.


Q. No one has been able to tell us what kind of dog we have. I am enclosing a sketch of one of his two positions. He only has two. The other one is the same as this except he faces in the opposite direction.

A. I think that what you have is a cast-iron lawn dog. The expressionless eye and the rigid pose are characteristic of metal lawn animals. And that certainly is a cast-iron ear. You could, however, remove all doubt by means of a simple test with a hammer and a cold chisel, or an acetylene torch. If the animal chips, or melts, my diagnosis is correct.

TOMORROW NIGHT: The Ladies and Gentlemen's Guide to Modern English Usage: III. The Split Infinitive

THURBER TONIGHT: Check out the series to date


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