Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Who's a Good Boy?



Register columnist

I'm so proud I could cry. Zev has reached a new milestone … it's one of those cliché things, I know. Something that every new parent experiences, something that, in the grand scheme of things, is not that big a deal.

But when it finally happens in your family, you are blown away. You giggle. You dance. You blog. You just want to shout it from the rooftops, broadcasting your child's feat for all the world to hear: “He did it!” you yell. “My son is finally smarter than my dog!”

It took a full year, but young Zev now knows more commands (15) than Sketch (nine). He can point to things he wants and has improved upon Sketch's trick of making horrible, un-ignorable sounds when he doesn't get his way. He can drink from a straw, bottle or cup. He can even say a few words.

I knew Zev was on the right track when he first mastered sitting and rolling over without any treats.

He's still not housetrained: He poops himself and chews all our books, something that Sketch has had the good sense never to do. And he still hasn't figured out that going to the doctor means getting a shot – something dogs comprehend innately. But Zev understands countless words and can identify a monkey – be it toy, real or curious. Sketch wouldn't know a monkey from an emu, and it wouldn't matter because the sight of either would leave her quivering beneath the bed.

We used to say that Sketch was smart. Not too many other dogs can dance in a circle or walk backward on two legs. (Neither, for that matter, can Zev – yet). But if there's one thing being a mother has taught me it's that humans so completely rock over dogs.

At a party recently, a woman started talking to me about all the “special” things that her cat, Cinnamon, can do. She yowls when she wants attention. She has some elaborate way of scratching at her litter box. She sits in her owner's lap when the woman is on the toilet.

Those tricks aren't special. Those tricks are lame.

My son puts his hands on his head on command. Can Cinnamon do that? I didn't think so. I didn't want to be rude, and I couldn't think of what to say, so I just offered, “If a person did any of these things, we'd institutionalize them.”

“Oh, she is a person,” the woman answered.


For all my faults, I have never mistaken Sketch for a person. I have never let her eat at the table, sit on the couch or sleep in my bed. But neither had I considered Zev to be much of a person, either. He's too … squishy. He speaks this weird, moon-man language and is given to fits of laughter over mundane things. When he's tired, instead of sleeping, he screams. Same goes when he has to poop. People don't do that.

But I'm coming around in my estimation of him. A few weeks ago, he began putting balls through a tube. And more recently, he learned how to throw. It's a weak throw, and it doesn't always hit its target, but still he'll toss you a ball if you ask. I was blown away at how advanced that was. How agile. How person-like.

“He's so much smarter than Sketch now,” I told Hubby.

Hubby didn't say anything; he just gave me that look that tells me he's trying to remember the number to Child Protective Services. But I don't care. My son is smarter than my dog. Nothing could make me happier.

Now all I have to do is teach Zev to fetch my slippers and pee in the yard, and we'll be set.

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