19 March 2008

the dog knows a coda

Whilst at a supper dance at the golf club on Dewi Sant day (St. David's, 1 March), we sat next to a lovely couple who, it turned out, were fanatical dog people. In the sense that they love dogs and, finding us of like mind, regaled us with stories of past dogs (she was a good one, that) and present dogs (so I had to adopt him, mind--you understand! what could I do!). One of their dogs-of-yore was a collie who, according to the gentleman in question, could count. He taught her to count painstakingly with 'chocolate buttons', and eventually the dog could count to 10 with barks. How many fingers, pooch? 'bark bark bark' good girl!

I believe this to be entirely true. Dogs are smart (some of them) and can learn, particularly when there is chocolate involved. (Oddly like humans in that way, if I recall the persuasive graham cracker and chocolate milk combo of kindergarten days.) And so we reflected: could we teach our dog to count? Probably, but did we have the patience? No.

But we will say that our dog can do it one better: he understands the narrative structure of the television drama (and by extension, most dramatic forms). Specifically, he knows his codas. DS9, for all of its genius, follows the normal pattern of intro, [opening credits] three acts, and a coda with some regularity. And usually, after we are done watching said programme in the evening, we let Luke out for a final trip to the loo and then go to bed. After assiduous training through seven seasons of DS9, Luke can now anticipate this. He'll be dead asleep (for those who know, this is the upside-down, neck curled back, forearm in the air, chasing the squirrel type asleep) and we won't move or say anything, but something in the narrative arc of the show will change. A completion of the story's main narrative, followed by a palpable shift in the music, or the tone of the dialogue, or the sound of 'space'. Who knows--Luke can sense it. At the start of the coda, he wakes from sleep, stretches, and walks to the back door. We sometimes have to tell him to wait if the coda goes on for more than the usual minute or so, or if there are two codas (rare, but it happens).

Nothing like having a dog with an intimate understanding of narrative structure.

We believe that he will now shift to train his ear/body for the bass notes of the Wire's closing credits. Or our utterances of 'damn' at the end of each episode. One of the two. Not that we're creatures of habit at all. Not us.

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