The Owner has a terrible habit of pulling backwards as we walk along. I have been trying to correct her, straining to help her along as she leans back and endlessly complains at her inability to keep up. This morning she says that if I don’t stop pulling her cheese arm will come right off. The Moral Dog would not wish to pull bits off his Owner. Particularly not the Cheese Arm.
I say it is not me pulling harder, it is her.
She says that because I am growing I am moving the goalposts so I have to pull less. If I do not, who knows what parts of her will remain by the time we reach the park?
I say that it seems to me that growing is difficult enough, without having to worry about where my goalposts are. The thought of the Owner coming apart is also rather Morally Off-putting, since it raises all kinds of Philosophical Questions regarding how many parts of her could come off yet leave her still the Owner. There must be a limit, I tell Caspar and Houdini later. And what should I do about my goalposts? What if they start to get in the way?
Caspar remarks that by remarkable coincidence he had exactly the same conversation with his Owner last week, but upon returning home he investigated himself carefully for goalposts and found none. Houdini says even when his Owner put him in a kind of straight-jacket he wriggled right out of it and still no parts came off her.
It is clear that we have Been Deceived. The goalposts will not get in the way, they are Metaphorical. Caspar is excellent as a Trusty Sidekick, but when it comes down to it he is mainly fluff. Caspar could no more pull the arm off his Owner than could Squeaky Cat, even given that Squeaky Cat is awaiting repair.
Later, in the park, I resume my training efforts. Look Hergest, says the Owner, I thought we had agreed, if you don’t stop that you will pull my cheese arm right off. Cheese will become a thing of the past.
I say that was not agreement, it was deception, based on Metaphorical Goalposts and Metaphorical Cheese Arms. I say it is remarkable how few Owners I have seen without their Actual Cheese Arms, despite their constant claims regarding the ease with which they can be detached.
She says the whole purpose of the metaphor was to explain that the Moral Dog will not pull if he wants cheese.
The concept of being given cheese for something I have not done raises a whole new world of cheese possibilities. I say, how will you know exactly when it is that the Moral Dog has not pulled and therefore deserves cheese?
She misses my Philosophical Point and says she will know because her arm will still be attached.
I say I slept a whole night in my crate last night without pulling yet despite many hours of having not pulled, so far today I have not had this recognised with cheese, and we are now well into the afternoon. I may need to consider charging cheese interest.
She said that’s entirely different. You can’t have cheese just for not doing something, but you can have it when you could have done something but didn’t.
I feel she is moving the Metaphorical Goalposts now. Okay, I say, so when the bladder of the Moral Dog is very full and the Moral Dog refrains from emptying it indoors, even in the rain, on the basis that the Owner prefers that it is emptied in the garden in the icy cold, should there be cheese?
No, she says. The emptying of the bladder of the Moral Dog in the appropriate place is not exceptional, even in a light shower. It does not deserve cheese.
It strikes me that the Metaphorical Goalposts are travelling faster than the South African forwards in the Rugby World Cup final. Let’s get this clear, I say. If there is something the Moral Dog could have done, but did not do, something that the Owner would prefer the Moral Dog not to do, something that is exceptional in a cheese related fashion, then cheese will be issued purely for not doing it.
Nearly, she says. You have to also consider the fact that things that are once exceptional can become Moral Norms over time, the bladder of the Moral Dog being but one example. Once the actions of the Moral Dog are Moral Norms then they are no longer deserving of cheese. That is called Being Trained.
The Metaphorical Goalposts have moved so far, it seems to me, that they are actually in South Africa. Who gets to decide, I ask, which things that a Moral Dog might do or not do are still exceptional in a cheese related fashion and which are Moral Norms in a Being Trained related fashion?
It’s one of us two, she says. I’ll give you two guesses.
It seems to me that Being Trained is a long journey to nowhere, since every time the Moral Dog advances morally the Metaphorical Goalposts will be moving some way ahead of him. The Sensible Dog would ration his progress carefully, lest the Metaphorical Goalposts move so far that the Moral Dog becomes a positive paragon of perfection yet attracts no cheese whatsoever.
Caspar says who says Metaphorical Goalposts can only move in one direction? We should make a list of all the things a Moral Dog could have done but didn’t. Then we should start doing them again.
Not all of them, I say. I actually prefer to wee on the gravel. That can be a Moral Norm.
Caspar admits that he actually prefers not to chew the Owner’s socks. His Squeaky Flamingo is far more fulfilling. Socks can be Moral Norms too.
Houdini says there are times when he would rather go home than wriggle through the fence and explore the parks and places of London, which can be rather wet and unfriendly in November. He is totally right.
We are all in accordance that jumping up at Tall Humans in the coffee shop causes far more trouble than its worth.
It will be a small list, Caspar says, eventually.
Perhaps we should make it tomorrow, I add, when we are able to think of something to put on it.
Houdini says we are all doomed.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.