Please enjoy this fun guest blog by author, poet, and bookseller, Jenny Kalahar.
My dog Weegee has a superior talent for finding stuff. Her yellow tennis balls, for example. And the cats. We have started to use her natural hunting skills to locate sold books on the shelves so that we can package them and then mail them out to customers around the globe. Training her to shift her attention from feline and yellow felt-covered items was not easy, but we did manage in the end. The first level of difficulty came in teaching her to read. Flash cards paired with bits of chicken did the trick. We infused her lessons with lots of puns and let her call it the “arfabet.” After the basics, she really devoured (almost literally – oops) old Dick and Jane readers, especially the stories of Puff and Spot. We moved on to Dr. Seuss books and then to E.B. White novels.
We have most of our fiction shelved arfabetically by arfer, so this makes finding Heinlein and Steinbeck fairly easy, but she still has trouble locating non-fiction books like Ayn Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. “Would it be found,” she asks, “in philosophy, psychology, or over in a litter box?” We really shouldn’t encourage those little book jokes, but we do. Some technical words still give her paws, but she can now find and point her snoot at most sold books on her “find these” list in two minutes or less, depending upon the height of the shelf.
Now, however, she is already tiring of her daily task, even though we let her play “Guess where this book is being shipped” and other mail-order-related games. The other day I found her in one of the smaller basement rooms using a soldering iron, piles of electronic parts all around her on the worktable. She finally – after I wouldn’t quit asking – explained her newest project: she plans to fit each book with its own tiny GPS chip so that we can instantly locate any title in the shop without having to use a dog. Well. I had to admire her ingenuity, but a part of me feels just a little bit angry that we spent all of those months teaching her to read.
Jenny Kalahar, Weegee, and their cats live in central Indiana, hidden between the piles of books, old magazines, LP’s and dust bunnies. Jenny is the author of Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, The Find of a Lifetime, and One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems. Learn more about her HERE.
Copyright © 2014 Jenny Kalahar – All Rights Reserved
Photo of Weegee by Jenny Kalahar. Used with permission.