Canine and ten

Just when you’re starting to lose hope on WhatsApp forwards as most of them turn out to be totally predictable, just when you’re about to give up on them in total despair as many of them are unreliable, some friend in some group, when you least expect it, sends you a forward that makes you sit up and marvel at humanity’s ability for total silliness.

It is likely that you too might have received the same forward on some WhatsApp group that you are doubtless part of. My belief is all forwards eventually get sent to all. But in case you have been living inside a drain pipe and have had no access to your smart phone, here is what that forward was about: It is of a man getting answers for basic addition and subtraction of single-digit numbers from his — why not? — dog.

Seriously, the man, wearing a cap and holding the dog’s leash in one hand, loudly asks what is “seven minus one”, and the dog, which seems like a Golden Retriever, lets out six barks in answer. Then he proceeds to call out what is “six plus two”, and gets eight barks in response. He also shouts out a number and the dog comes up with matching number of barks. Then he gives it a complex polynomial equation, and the Golden Retriever effortlessly solves it in a jiffy

Okay, I made the last one up. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that man has already begun training his dog to recite multiplication tables. I don’t know what is PETA doing? I mean how does teaching maths to a dog not amount to cruelty.

Just what would the dog do with the knowledge of maths when I, as a human being, have still not figured out how to put to use in real life stuff like Sin2A + Cos2A (answer is: one bark) that I learned in school.

Also, I cannot help wonder as to what would have driven that man to teach maths to the dog. You may want to teach maths to your dog only if you are planning to enroll it for IIT-JEE or some such. Otherwise it makes no sense. I bet if you have ever had a dog, never would have occurred to you this thought: “It will be nice if Jimmy understood addition and subtraction. I will perhaps tutor Jimmy some basic maths so that it will come in handy whenever I am struck for answer to the question, what is five minus three”.

As a dog owner, half of the time you will not be trying to teach it anything. Half of the time you will be trying to retrieve whatever it puts in its mouth. I speak from experience. We have had several dogs in our house during our childhood, and all of them had an uncanny fascination to chew up (in no particular order of preference) furniture, pencil, socks, your physics record note, your favourite slipper, the mug in the bathroom, photo albums and even the plate that you generally put their food on.

Dogs are not choosy eaters. But for creatures that put in their mouth whatever they can possibly sink their collective teeth into, dogs are pretty finicky when it comes to its opposite: pooping. Before they start down to take a dump, dogs will smell the place with the careful zeal of wine-tasters sniffing the latest arrival from Bordeaux. It might be the same piece of ground that they (I mean the dogs, not the wine-tasters) took a dump on the very same morning, yesterday, the day before yesterday, actually since forever. Still, they would not be easily satisfied. They will forcefully paw the ground, roam about uneasily and only when the entire surrounding is to their satisfaction will they start pooping. It is to this species maths is being taught now.

But for a moment look at it from the dog’s perspective. Now that it has become proficient in maths, it may want to feel special. It may want to be acknowledged for the same. But other dogs, I am sure, are not going to be in thrall of its mathematical wizardry. Other dogs are not going to gather around and start clapping in appreciation. Other dogs are going to gather around and start smelling each other’s butt. That is pretty much dogs are capable of doing. That is what they have been doing for centuries.

Anyway, now that they have started providing maths classes for dogs, it is only a matter of time before somebody else tries to teach, I don’t know, guitar to his cat. From my perspective, I only hope that whoever attempts it also has the good sense to record it and send it as a WhatsApp forward.