Dear Dr. Boli: I have a lovely Pekinese dog who worships me, or seems to. He often pays close attention to me when I’m talking to him. I think he’s very intelligent. Do you really think he understands what I say? Since I’m such a big fan of yours, I named him “Irving,” short for Mr. Vanderblock-Wheedle. —Sincerely, Astonished in Aspinwall.
Dear Sir or Madam: Your dog does indeed understand much of what you say. For example, when you say, “Good heavens, will that woman next door never stop yammering about her toaster?” a Pekinese understands every word. What the poor little fellow cannot understand is what you mean when you say things like “Pwecious widdle doggy-woggy wannum num-nums?” He is positive that you are talking to him, but you seem to be speaking no earthly language, and he thinks you may be slightly off your head. That look you think of as worship would be better described as puzzled contempt.