The Dog That Wouldn’t Meow
2nd in the Psychoharmonics®
for children series
By Jack Thomas
For several weeks, Samantha let it be known that she wanted a kitten for her seventh birthday. When her birthday finally came, she was waiting at the window when her father got home from work. She pressed her face against the glass to see what he was carrying, but all she saw was his briefcase.
Samantha ran to the front door, jerked it open, and ran out to meet her father. “Where’s my kitten?” she screamed. “I told you I wanted a kitty cat! Didn’t you get me a kitty cat?”
Her father put down his briefcase and took the sniffling Samantha up in his arms. Smiling and wiping away her tears with his finger, he finally said, “Do you think I’d forget my little girl’s birthday? I got you something better than a kitty cat. Go look in the back seat of the car.”
Samantha wiggled out of her father’s arms and raced to the car. With all her strength, she swung the car door open and peeked inside. There she saw a large cardboard box with little round holes cut in each end of it. Her face lit up with a
smile as she heard something scratching on the box. Pulling herself up on the seat beside the box, she cautiously lifted the lid and looked inside. “This is not a kitty cat!” she screamed. It’s a puppy! It’s a stupid dog! I don’t want a dog! I want a kitty cat! Where’s my kitty cat?”
“But you’ll love that puppy,” her father said as he picked up the squirmy, whimpering little ball of fur.
“No, I won’t!” Samantha insisted. “I don’t want a puppy! I want a KITTY CAT!”
In spite of the urgings of her parents, for several days Samantha would have nothing to do with the little dog. Finally, however, one of her friends, Linda, came over to play and got very excited when she discovered the puppy. “Oh, what an adorable puppy!” She exclaimed. “What’s his name?”
“He doesn’t have a name,” Samantha replied grumpily as Linda picked up the puppy. “He’s just Dog.”
“That’s silly,” Linda replied, twisting her mouth into a funny little half-smiling sneer and cuddling the puppy in her arms. “I’ll call him Horatio! That’s a good name for such a fine-looking dog.”
Samantha snatched the puppy away from Linda and told her in a very hateful tone that it was her dog and she’d call it whatever she wanted to call it.
After Linda had made such a fuss over the puppy, for the next several days, Samantha began paying a little more attention to Dog and even took on the chore of seeing that he had enough food and water. She sometimes even took him outside and played on the lawn with him. Dog seemed to enjoy chasing a tennis ball when she threw it. He even started learning to fetch it and bring it back to Samantha so she could throw it again.
After a couple of weeks, Samantha had become at least tolerant of the puppy, but she still couldn’t forget about the kitten that she really wanted. One day when both she and Dog were tired of playing ball, she put the puppy up in her lap and talked to him. “Wouldn’t you much rather be a kitty cat?” she asked him. “Think of all the fun we could have together! I bet you could be a kitty cat if you wanted to. Why don’t you try it? Let’s hear you meow.”
Samantha waited and watched hopefully, but Dog just panted and stared at her with his sweet little doggie smile.
“Say meow, meow, meow!” Samantha commanded. Still, Dog just looked at her blankly. Finally, he barked several times and backed away from her.
After trying again and again to get Dog to meow and getting nothing from him but more romping about and barking, Samantha finally gave up. “You stupid dog!” she shouted. “You can’t do anything right!”
Once again, Samantha ignored the puppy and, in spite of being threatened with punishment, left all of the caretaking chores to her parents. Finally, her father had a long talk with her and told her if she didn’t want the puppy he was going to find it another home.
“Fine!” Samantha replied. “I don’t care what you do with that stupid dog. He won’t even try to meow!”
Samantha’s mother recalled how fond Linda seemed to be of him, so she called Linda’s mother and asked if Linda could have the puppy. In just a few minutes, both Linda and her mother arrived at the door to fetch Dog.
“Oh, look at him, Mother!” Linda exclaimed. “Isn’t he just adorable? I fell in love with him when I first saw him. I’m going to call him Horatio. That’s a fine name for such a fine dog, isn’t it?”
When the puppy heard his new name, he barked excitedly and licked Linda on the cheek. “Oh, thank you, Samantha,” Linda exclaimed with little tears of joy in her eyes. “This is the most wonderful present anybody could give me. I’ve always wanted a puppy just like this. He’s going to be such a great friend. Oh, I do love him so!”
“Well, you’re welcome to him,” Samantha replied, looking at the puppy with a snarling expression on her face. “He’s stupid. He couldn’t even learn to meow.”
“Meow?” Linda repeated, her mouth wide open in surprise. “Why would you want a dog to meow? I love his little yapping. He sounds so happy. I love him just as he is. I’m glad he just barks like a dog. He’s going to be a fine big dog. And we’re going to be such great friends. I am so happy!”
Samantha whirled around and, looking back over her shoulder, made her final pronouncement. “Stupid dog! Didn’t even meow once! Who would want a dog like that?”
On their way home, as Linda held the puppy in her arms and comforted him, she asked her mother why Samantha would try to make a dog meow like a cat.
“Sometimes people get all mixed up in their thinking,” her mother replied. “Instead of accepting people and animals and other things the way they are, they try to change them to be the way they want them to be, and then get angry when they fail.”
“Is that like when Grandma got mad at you when you wanted to have Thanksgiving dinner at our house instead of at her house last year?”
“That’s right, darling! That’s very good. People like that are very unhappy because they’re always trying to set goals for other people, and then they get angry when they don’t get their way. We can’t set goals for other people. Those are always impossible goals. We can set goals only for ourselves.”
“When Daddy gets mad at other drivers sometimes, is he doing that – trying to set goals for somebody else?”
“That’s right, sweetheart. He’s trying to make them want to be kind and courteous and stay out of what he considers his space. And you know how he sometimes calls them bad names? That makes him ever angrier. When we call people bad names, we always have an attitude of hate toward them. And when it’s all over, that just makes us feel bad, too.”
“So you think Samantha is an unhappy person?”
“Very unhappy, sweetie. And she’ll always be that way until she learns to let people and puppies and all other creatures be what they are and just accept them for what they are.”
“Why did Samantha’s daddy give her a puppy when she really wanted a kitten?”
“We all do things like that sometimes, Linda. We think because we like something, everybody else should like it, too. Her daddy might have been allergic to cat fur, but he found out, though, that he couldn’t set the goal for Samantha to love that puppy the way you love him, so he got angry, too. He was trying to do what he thought was a kind, loving thing, and he felt hurt when the gift was rejected. Do you understand?”
“I think so, Mama. Then when Samantha tried to make Horatio be a cat, she got mad, too?”
“Yes, and can’t you see how silly that is? We’re all different people with different likes and dislikes. And cats are cats and dogs are dogs. If we were all the same, this world would be very boring, wouldn’t it?
“It sure would, Mom. From now on, if I catch myself trying to set goals for somebody else, I’m going to say to myself, “Linda, are you trying to make that dog meow?”
They both laughed and hugged each other. Then Linda picked up Horatio and hugged him. “Don’t worry, Horatio,” she said with a big smile toward her mother, “you don’t ever have to meow for me. You can always just be the wonderful, wonderful dog that you are.”
Horatio barked joyfully as though to say he fully approved.
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PS: Apparently cats also can’t be made to bark and are not happy when they are expected to act like a dog. See: http://www.newser.com/story/195947/we-stress-cats-out-by-thinking-theyre-like-dogs-expert.html