The problem is becoming more painful every day. I have a bad sense of direction, I am constantly guilty of missing turns, getting off on the wrong floor, and I always struggle to find my house keys. Are they lying on the bedside table, in the kitchen drawer, or in my handbag? And where is that handbag again?
My four-legged housemates, on the other hand, know exactly where they can and cannot go, keep track of their location, and sashay in and out of the house without any guidance from me. Here is the big difference: they are golden retrievers, and I am not.
Many of us carry pedometers or other electronic measuring instruments to keep track of ourselves. We try to cram more apps into our smartphones. But let’s admit that this high-tech race has long ago been won by our furry friends. Our two adorable dogs are fully loaded with computer power. First of all, they wear an electronic tell-tale that keeps track of how close they are straying to the “invisible fence” around our yard. A whistling sound first warns them. If they go farther, a shock follows. That potential shock was for me at first an almost insurmountable barrier. How could I hurt those dear ones? But in practice, one shock was more than enough. It is not without reason that Pavlov did his experiments with dogs.
In addition, they wear — on the advice of the our vet because dogs also prefer to lie on the couch all day — a special dog pedometer, the FitBark, which accurately keeps track of how many steps they take every day. (By the way, I wonder how this four-legged counter works. It would be fair if the number of steps were divided by two.)
Finally, there is the swinging dog door, which, at the exact moment that they stand there with their snouts in front of it, lifts up with an electronic “Open, Sesame.” Especially when I am outside in the dark looking for my keys to get back into the house, they mock me for my technological deficits by nonchalantly strolling in and out of the house. How hard can it be?
The temptation then is to crawl through the dog door yourself. After all, I just have to borrow their collar. But I am afraid that I will lose my natural authority in one fell swoop, like a senior manager who tries to mess around with computers in the IT department.
The fact that pets are better suited for domestic life in the future was already clear from our confrontation with the American immigration service when we arrived seven years ago. We were taken like potential criminals to a dim office where the officials extensively studied our immigration papers, in particular the X-rays of our lungs and the extensive vaccination certificates. As if we were still living in the 19th century and bringing the most lethal diseases from the Old World with us.
After this hour-long interrogation, our hearts sank. How would our two domestic cats then fare? But the opposite was the case. In literally one minute the microchips already implanted in their ears were read and their complete medical records recorded by a computer. Check! Check! Go! They were allowed to continue at once. Totally at home in the New World.
Pia de Jong is a Dutch writer who lives in Princeton. Her bestselling memoir, Saving Charlotte, was published in the U.S. in 2017. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.