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Saturday, April 13, 2002
Ignored by your pet? Try my ESL course
By AMY CHAVEZ
Trying to communicate with your cat or dog and not getting through? Maybe you are just not speaking their language. What language is that? Of course, that universal language: English! After all, Lassie understood English. Garfield thinks in English. And Mr. Ed, the horse, spoke it.
So today, for all the Japanese readers out there, I would like to offer my free course called "ESL for Pets." This course, based on the Silent Method, is designed to help you better communicate with your pet. It may be frustrating at first, but if your pet doesn't understand, repeat the words loudly and clearly, over and over, until he gets it.
In general, dogs are very good English-language learners because they are eager to please. But dogs are bad with grammar. Never use complete sentences with dogs! Instead, stick to simple one-word commands such as "Sit!" "Beg!" "Roll over!" "Heel!" and "Come!" Always use gestures with dogs. Dogs like body language. Dogs are very gender-conscious, so attach the gender to commands as in "Down, boy!" or "Come on, girl!" Especially with praise, gender tags work wonders: "Good boy!" or "Good girl!"
But dogs are very sensitive to criticism. Don't yell insults at your dog. If you must, disguise them in sentences such as "Get your bloody paws off me, mate!" or "For Christ's sake move over to your side of the bed!"
Cats are immune to insults, so let them fly! "Off the damn sofa!" "Out of the kitchen, beast!" Cats can handle long sentences too, so if you come home to your cat flopping around uncontrollably on the floor, then go ahead and let it rip: "You idiot! You ate my large, ornamental carp from the fish pond! Spit him out now!" When praising your cat, use explicit adjectives as in, "You beautiful, charming cat!" to elicit purrs. Long, philosophical talks with your cat will make him smile and squint his eyes in approval.
Parrots like grammar. Like children, once they learn something, they like to repeat it over and over. This makes them good language learners. Never insult a parrot, because he may fly away and never come back. Or worse, he'll insult you back, over and over. With parrots, stick with the basics: "Polly want a cracker" or "Kumiko want sembei."
Fish have never been very good language learners. Almost anything you say to a fish is going to produce the same response: a puzzled look and throbbing lips. Go ahead and take out your stress by insulting your fish: "Swim, you lazy sack of scales!" Or play cruel games: "Watch out -- here comes a shark!" The reason fish aren't very good language learners is not because they are dumb, however. It's because they are naturally hearing-impaired due to their surroundings. Think about it. If you lived in the water, every time someone spoke to you, the words would come out garbled. Therefore, if you really want to get through to your fish, I suggest you take him out of the water first.
This can be especially annoying if you have a pet octopus. Since octopuses tend to be kleptomaniacs, this can lead to many an interrogation outside the aquarium: "Olie, did you take my car keys again? Time for a hand check."
Reptiles are definitely the worst language learners. Never expect a response from a reptile. Stick to the basics: "Dude, wake up! You've overslept." or "Hey, are you still alive?"
If after my "ESL for Pets" course, you still can't get through to your pet, perhaps the problem isn't your pet. Perhaps you need to enroll in a course in "Barking for Better Communication" or "Purring Your Point."
Contact Amy at email@example.com or visit the "Japan Lite" home page at www.amychavez.com