“Tell me! Tell me!”

8 08 2008

“Greatest American Dog” (CBS) is overwhelming. Standard three-judge panel vetting the “performances” of “competitors” who come up one by one and do a brief dance with their dog. Must be “choreographed” dance between person and dog. Each week, one human-dog team gets “eliminated.” And so on.

It’s almost always the same. The human comes out twitching and gesticulating madly, shunting, hoofing, grinding, winding . . . The dog sits there dumbfounded, waiting for a cue. It’s unmistakable: the dog wants to help. The dog wants badly to help. The dog will do anything to help. But the crazy movements of the human are just so totally unintelligible. “Tell me! Tell me!” you can hear the dog thinking. “What do you want me to do?” Sometimes the dog turns around in circles, or runs back and forth in the little ring the producers have provided. Mostly the dog sits, meditatively, patiently, wondering, “Where do I fit in?”

Do I very often feel like these dogs, sitting in a large ring somebody has concocted, while the authorities prance around me cannily and don’t quite give me the right signal? “Tell me!” What do you want me to do? But the dogs on this show are much cuter than I am, and when they sit there wondering, the heart goes out to them and one loves: loves dogs, all dogs, all dogs who have ever known that “they also serve who only stand and wait.”

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