"Belle Weaver is flying into the nation's capital today to receive an award for saving a family member's life… Stories such as hers, of heroism and quick thinking, are always inspiring. But this one has a twist, and not just because Belle is 3 years old. You see, Belle Weaver is a beagle. She used her owner's cellphone to call 911." (Washington Post, 6/19/06)
“I want a mobile,” said Lucy, my four-month old puppy. “Oh, right,” I retorted, “like you’re gonna use a mobile to save my life. You’ll just be chatting with all the pups in the neighborhood, costing me a fortune.” She looked at me solemnly, then sprang up in crazy leaps to lick my face. “I can order pizza,” she said, between slurpy dog kisses. “I’ll think about it,” I muttered, as she snuggled into my lap, utterly adorable.
A week later she had the phone, a cute pink Nokia with camera, Internet access and a Gorillaz ringtone. My partner Fred was incredulous. “Your mobile is 7 years old. Teenagers giggle at you behind your back. But you got Lucy a brand new Nokia?” “She asked for it,” I replied defensively, “in her way. And she can order pizza!”
“Lucy! Dominos!” I said brightly. The pup trotted to her bed, dug the phone out from under the cushion, pushed number one on the speed dial and barked once. “Pepperoni,” I told Fred. “Two barks is Supreme. Three is vegetarian.” “How does she know which one to order?” he asked. “Oh, I let her decide,” I responded, nonchalantly. “I like them all.”
I respect my puppy’s privacy, so any calls she made outside of Dominos were her own business. Once I did turn around to catch her with paw on phone, and a slight smirk on her face that quickly changed to flop-eared, dangly tongued doggy innocence. I was pretty sure she’d just taken a photo of my ass. “That better not turn up on the Internet,” I admonished sternly, “or it’s no chew sticks for a week.” She turned her head to the side in a faintly quizzical look. But she knew what I was talking about.
It started me thinking though. The Internet. Why stop at pizza? Why couldn’t the dog do other telecoms chores? “She could order the weekly groceries online,” Fred suggested. “You hate doing that.” I thought about it. All we had to do was save our regular purchases. The pup could access and order each week, with just a few special extras to remember. I thought it well within her capabilities.
Not only did Lucy master online groceries within a week, but she took it upon herself to assess the household food situation and top up the regular order with whatever was needed. I never begrudged her the doggie treats and chew sticks she sometimes added to the order.
Of course it didn’t stop there. Soon Lucy was accessing Ticketmaster and using my credit card to book tickets. She’d even peruse the Irish Times online and make entertainment suggestions: National Concert Hall, Vicar Street, Croke Park. She never abused her credit card privileges, except for that one time, when she booked the three of us in for the Panto. But hey, it was Christmas.
Eventually I gave her the codes for my online bank accounts, and had her pay the bills.
Our lives had never been easier. In return, we took Lucy for walks in the woods, runs on the beach and frolics in the park. We arranged puppy playdates, built a puppy playground in the back garden and enrolled her in self-improving doggie night school. She briefly took up the tin whistle, but then switched over to dancing. She loved the Cajun two-step and the Ballyvourney Reel.
When Lucy was around six months old, I noticed her becoming more secretive and yes, somewhat surly. I had to ask her two or three times to order pizza before she’d poke at the phone with a dramatic sigh and a roll of the eyes. And she would only order vegetarian. Funny things crept into our grocery order as well: baby shampoo, muzzle polish and Dog Fancy magazine. She’d grab the latter and rush off to her bed, not even stopping for a chew stick. My puppy was changing.
I’d always believed in complete trust between Lucy and myself, and hated to invade her privacy. But one afternoon when she was out on a playdate with the Boxer puppy up the road, I decided to peek at her phone. Glancing quickly down the Internet favorites list, I saw what I expected: Tesco, NCH, Vicar Street, Whelan’s. But then I saw a Myspace URL. Nervously, I dialed in. I needed a password. What would Lucy’s password be? Me, her beloved owner? I tried “Cheryl.” Nope. How about Fred? No, not him either. Cajun? No. I got it on the fourth try, though, with “chewstick.”
I was shocked at what I saw. Along with the picture of my ass, she’d posted some rather suggestive pictures of herself, with a none too subtle mention of the fact that she was shortly due for her first season in heat. There was quite a bit of interest from the other mutts online.
That night was a rough one in our house. At first Lucy was ashamed, then defiant. She whined and jumped when I took her mobile away, and ran around the kitchen ten times at top speed. I stood firm, however. No more phone, and no more credit card. Plus we had a little talk about sexuality and self-respect.
I felt a bit ashamed of myself, too, for trying to pass some of life’s annoying telecoms chores onto my puppy. From now on, I promised her, we’d do only wholesome owner-dog things together, like playing the tugging game, throwing the stick, and running in crazy zigzags on the beach.
At least I’ve got myself a brand new mobile, albeit in pink. It does come with a camera, though, and Gorillaz ringtone. Whatever the hell “Gorillaz” is.