As you know, I’ve floundered a bit as I’ve tried to figure out what to do with this retirement thing. I have big blocks of empty time, and you can only make so many trips to the grocery store per day. My happiest retired friends have actually created new vocations for themselves, e.g., sculptor, photographer, racetrack tout. For myself, I’ve decided to realize a dream that I have entertained since my early teens, namely, to be a standup comic. I have been working on my routine, and I’d like to try it out on you. It’s based, of course, on real-life stories about our Old English Sheepdogs. It goes something like this:
Hey guys, thanks for coming out. I know a lot of you from the neighborhood, and you probably recognize me as the Clifton sheepdog guy. I’m really happy to have a chance to fill you in on our boys, Mike and Duffy. My wife Katja bought our doggies in Fairfield eight years ago. She did this on her own, and, when I first saw them from a distance in the kitchen door, I thought they were baby raccoons. Though I’d sworn to never own another dog, it took only a few minutes to fall in love with these darling puppies. A few months later our friend Donna bought their younger sister, a female sheepdog who she named Sophie. The three siblings get together a lot. Duffy’s the alpha dog and can be aggressive when he doesn’t get his way. Mikey is more gentle and laid back, and Sophie has all the personality. She likes Mikey the best and is a little wary of Duffy (rightfully so). The three dogs have had many adventures.
You probably know that Old English Sheepdogs are known for their keen intelligence. How intelligent, I found out last week. I got home earlier than usual, and Mike and Duffy didn’t know I was there. I was astonished to overhear them in the living room speaking to one another in perfect English. I’d always known they could understand what we were saying, but I had no idea they could actually speak themselves. I was pretty excited about this, so I put Duffy on his leash and took him down the street to Keller’s IGA. I said to the manager, “Will you give us a bag of free dog food if I show you that my sheepdog can talk.” He was sort of amused so he said, “Sure, go ahead.” So I said to Duffy, “What goes on the top of a house to protect it?” Duffy replied, “Roof.” Then I asked him, “And what is the opposite of smooth?” Duffy said, “Rough.” Finally I asked, “Who was the greatest baseball player of all times.” Duffy said something like, “Ruth.” I turned to the manager, ready to get our free dog food, but he just frowned and escorted us politely to the door. We sat down on the stoop. Duffy looked up at me disappointedly and asked, “Do you think I should have said Pete Rose?”
Once I had learned about the dogs’ amazing abilities, I took Mike to see the vet at Tennessee Avenue Clinic. She said, "So tell me about your dog. What’s his problem." I said, “Well, his name is Mikey. He’s a Jewish dog, and he can speak.” The vet looked at me skeptically. "He can speak in English?" “Sure,” I said, “watch this.” I looked Mikey in the eye and commanded in my firmest voice: “Mikey, Fetch!" Mikey began to walk toward the door, but then he turned around and said, "So why are you talking to me like that? You always order me around like I'm nothing. And you only call me when you want something. And then you make me sleep on the floor, with my arthritis. You give me this fahkahkta food with all the salt and fat, and you tell me it's a special diet. It tastes like dreck! YOU should eat it yourself! And do you ever take me for a decent walk? NO, it's out of the house, a short pish, and right back home. Maybe if I could stretch out a little, the sciatica wouldn't kill me so much! I should roll over and play dead for real for all you care!" The vet was astonished. "This is incredible! What in the world is the dog’s problem?" I explained: "He’s hearing impaired. I said 'Fetch', not 'Kvetch'!”
Now that they think that they’re practically human beings, the dogs have started doing more stuff on their own. Last week Duffy went down the street to Graeter’s ice cream parlor and ordered a banana split. The clerk was Kathy Graeter herself She was quite surprised to hear a sheepdog speak, but she brought the banana split anyway. Duffy slurped it up in a matter of seconds and handed Kathy a ten dollar bill. She didn’t think a sheepdog could know anything about money, so she only gave him back fifty cents in change. “Hope you enjoyed the banana split,” she said. “We don’t get very many sheepdogs coming in here.” “At $9.50 a sundae,” Duffy said, “It’s no wonder.”
My neighbor thinks that the sheepdogs are pretty rambunctious, maybe even too rambunctious. She took Mikey aside one day and told him that she had taken her Weimaraner to obedience school and it was a great experience for him. Mikey was unimpressed. She asked him why he and Duffy hadn’t gone to obedience school. Mikey said, “We don’t need to go to obedience school. Our humans obey us just fine.”
The truth is the dogs probably could use some obedience training. You just never know what they’re going to be up to next. The other night Katja took an Ambien to go to sleep. About an hour later she wandered down to the kitchen. When she opened the refrigerator door, she found Duffy sleeping on the top shelf. “What is a sheepdog doing in our refrigerator?” she exclaimed. “Isn’t this a Westinghouse?” Duffy asked. “Yes,” said Katja. “Well,” Duffy explained, “I’m Westing.”
Mike’s the more sociable of the two dogs, and he decided the other day to get in touch with his German Shepherd cousin Parker in New York City. He went down to the Western Union office, picked up a blank form, and wrote, "Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof." The clerk read the message and politely told him: "There are only nine words here. You can add another Woof for the same price." "But," Mikey replied, "that would totally ruin the punch line."
Sophie comes over to visit a lot, and she is without question the cutest of the sheepdogs. She wears her hair in two little ponytails, wiggles her butt when she walks, and is as flirtatious as an OES can be. I took her for a walk down Ludlow Avenue one day when three handsome male Dalmatians came along – a big Dalmation, a medium-sized Dalmation, and a small Dalmation. They were lovestruck with Sophie and crowded around her. She looked them over and said, “Whichever one of you can say liver and cheese in an intelligent sentence can go on a date with me.” The big Dalmation immediately responded, “I love liver and cheese.” Sophie, unimpressed, shook her head with disapproval. So the medium-sized Dalmation said, “I could whip you up a liver and cheese sandwich.” Sophie shook her head even more negatively. Finally, the small Dalmation – the runt of the pack -- gave Sophie a wink and turned to his brothers: “Liver alone. Cheese mine.”
So that’s our life these days. Thanks for your attention, sheepdog lovers. You are definitely the best audience I’ve ever had. (Applause sign lights up)