Zora the Bookshop Dog’s Advice to New Graduates

image004Well, every year about this time humans come in looking for graduation gifts. Apparently their puppies, or their sister’s puppies, or the puppies of a friend–humans have such odd kinship systems–are graduating. It is a time of great consternation for the whole human pack.

It all seems a bit artificial to me. Take that kinship system of who has to buy presents for whom: we canines have instincts for a reason, and we’re not much bothered about the rules beyond that. You either smell good or you don’t; you wag your tail and are friendly, or you’re a growler. Blood doesn’t matter–unless it’s about to get spilled.

But then, I’m a dog, not a human, so maybe I haven’t got enough of that “schooling” stuff.

That’s the other part of the “graduation” ritual that strikes me as odd. I understand that the human puppies have done something that took a lot of time and was quite expensive, but we canines know that it takes a whole lifetime to absorb the learning that goes with being alive. In my experience, those that don’t keep learning get run over on the highway. Or left behind in a move. You gotta stay ahead of those noises you hear in the distance, y’know? Ears up, nose into the wind.

There’s another part of the ritual I don’t get. We bitches love our babies all the time; they get licks and snuggles and we sing them lullabies when nobody’s around. I know humans love their puppies too, but they seem to wait for special occasions to say so. Every day alive is a special occasion for us. We call it “every dog has his day.”

Then there’s that weird thing humans do where they run around each other–or run away from each other–looking for love. In my experience, love comes when you’re sitting down minding your own business. Someone scratches you behind the ears, you look into each others’ eyes, and you got a home. Just don’t go messing it up by barking when a little kiss will do the trick.

And one last thing. There are no books that will stuff into a pup’s head in one sitting all the things they haven’t got by now. In our world, we say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” The time to tell ’em what they need to hear is all those years you’ve got ’em around the food bowl – kitchen table, I think y’all call it. Those toss-off evenings that tick by one by one, racing past ’cause you’ve got places to go: THOSE are the nights that count. Once they get old enough to go out on their own, they aren’t gonna listen any more. So get their ears full while they’re still wet behind ’em.

That’s what I’d say if humans could hear me. But y’know, they usually can’t, so never mind. And to all you puppies out there leaving the school, here’s my advice: keep your ears up, scratch when it itches, stick with the love you find, and don’t get run over.

On-The-Job Training

Today, Jack and Wendy gallivanted off to sign books, visit bookstores, and see old friends in Philly, NYC, and Charlotte, leaving Shopsitter Andrew Whalen to sort it all out and bravely captain the ship o’ books and its furry, mew-tinous crew.

During my first week in Big Stone Gap I was taught a great deal about operating a small business. There’s accounting, stocking, inventory management, and that cornerstone of every great business: bribing animals with treats so they don’t bark at customers or claw your eyeballs.

But some policies at Tales of the Lonesome Pine are different from your standard multinational mega-conglomerate next door. For one, the training videos are better. The dress code is more lax too, unless slippers are company issue and I didn’t get the memo. (C’mon Wendy! All pajama-related memos are supposed to be delivered in triplicate!)

Perhaps most bewildering for me is the total lack of a customer script. At first I copied some of Jack’s mannerisms. The first time he heard me say, “Hi! Looking for anything special, or just in for a browse?” he gave me a look that would frost every field in Scotland. “That’s my line!” he said, covering his murderous intent in completely convincing joviality. I’ve since learned, through empirical research, that people will listen to a man with a Scottish accent more than a person with a vague Midwestern accent who mispronounces pillow as pellow and milk as melk. Not sure why — further research is required — but initial results lead me to believe it has something to do with a Scottish brogue being (and this is a scientific term here) ADORABLE. With this knowledge in hand, I now know I can’t just copy Jack’s patter, unless eyes glazing over as I ramble somehow contributes to customer satisfaction.

Also, I never saw the Org Chart that lays out the official job titles for the menagerie. Is Bert Head of Security, or Public Relations? Mix those two up and you have a serious problem on your hands. (I’ve since looked this up and found on the blog that Bert is security. I probably shouldn’t have let him write all those press releases.) Owen has been a constant companion, but we’ve had some tussles over chain of command. I’ve since been testing him out in different capacities. Assigning him accounting was probably my biggest mistake.

I’ve now come to think of him as an intern and he’s come to think of me as a clawing post. Progress.

So, while there’s been some hiccups along the way, my on-the-job training is progressing. But I won’t know for sure how I’m doing until CEO Val-Kyttie’s performance review.