Friday, March 25, 2011

Want: Help Running Errands

Contributing blogger LAW comes through for us  once again with this gem from the recesses of the Dictionary of Every-day Wants.

My frequent shopping companion on the weekends is my dog. Accustomed to such routine excursions, she waits patiently in the car, windows rolled down slightly to give her fresh air, while I go to the supermarket, pharmacy, or hardware store. Her role is a passive one since in our society dogs are generally barred from supermarkets and all but the occasional dog-friendly emporium.
How different from Youman’s day, when marketing was done daily and on foot, and your dog could be not only your companion but an active helper and participant. Under the attention-getting heading of “DOGS, Teaching to go Errands,” Youman gives the sensible, pragmatic advice we’ve come to expect, and also reveals himself to be a kind and considerate pet owner.
“It is an excellent plan,” he begins, “to teach all dogs … to carry baskets or parcels when accompanying their masters.” The training process is “very simple, consisting of merely placing the articles in the dog’s mouth, and when he lets go of it give him a slight box on the ear and replace the article in his mouth.” A handle basket is just right, being “of such a form as to be grasped easily by him without hurting his mouth or teeth” and light enough so as to be “never more than he can easily carry.”
Clearly, this wouldn’t work for the average basset hound or dachshund—dogs that are just too low to the ground to hold a basket clear. [But think of the saddlebag space!—Ed] Even a larger dog wouldn’t be able to safely carry a week’s groceries, or even a day’s groceries for a big family. But for small-scale, daily shopping, this must have been a win-win for dog and owner alike. Youman notes that “most dogs will take a real pleasure in carrying articles in this manner.” It’s not hard, he says, to teach the dog to carry a basket of food—whether people food or dog food—without being tempted to steal. In kindly fashion, he advises that “if a dog ever deserves a reward for well doing he certainly does in this case, for it is too bad to tantalize him with the smell of some dainty and then not to let him finally have something for his good conduct.”
Eighteen seventy-two comes alive for me most vividly, though, in Youman’s final suggestion: “Suppose you wish [your dog] to go to market for you of a morning; take him with you regularly for a few mornings, letting him carry the basket. In a few days he will understand when you start where it is you propose to go, and will, perhaps, run on ahead and arrive there some minutes before you do.” In a world without cars, trucks, and traffic, it was actually safe for the dog to do so. How I’d like to walk out the door some Saturday morning, hand my dog her basket, and give her the command Youman recommends. “Tink,” I’d say, “go to market!”
Too bad Youman didn't include any helpful tips on this trick, which would definitely change my life for the better.