by John B. Rosenman
Text ©2005 John B. Rosenman; illustration ©2005 Cubist
Well, what do you think? the rabbi said. Think shell make a good president?
The bishop adjusted his collar and gazed out from the platform at the thousands who packed the plaza in front of the Capitol Building. A dog for chief executiveand a female at that. Who would ever have thought it possible?
The journalist smiled. And yet, Father, I believe the Vatican has stated that animals with synthetic intelligence have an immortal soul just like the rest of us.
But a Republican? the rabbi said. Can you imagine Fido vetoing some high-spending bill of Congress?
Her names not Fido, the journalist said.
No. But she is a collie. And only eight years old at that. They may have zapped her synapses so shes a super genius who learns at an accelerated rate, but her life expectancy remains the same. He shrugged. Fido the First may not even live out her term.
The journalist rubbed his chin. Theyre expecting a breakthrough any day in that area. Chienney at Yale thinks it likely dogs will soon have a life expectancy equal to mans.
The rabbi shuddered. If that happens, it could be the end of us. Our once four-legged friends could inherit the Earth. You know, Ive read that after they operate on their vocal cords, some of the newer drugs really work miracles. Like that Saint Bernard who learned French and Japanese in four months.
The journalist frowned. Im not worried about it like you are, he said. As a matter of fact, I think its wonderful.
Wonderful? The bishop sniffed. Speaking personally, I was raised with the Holy Scriptures, and I dont recall anything in them about a collie. He drew himself up. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him. He glanced up at the sun. Theres not a blessed thing there at all about a dog.
The rabbi looked guiltily around. Like you, Father, Im troubled, and the Torah is important to me as well. We may have our differences, but like you, I believe that God created us in His own image, and then gave us dominion over the beasts of the Earth. I just cant
He broke off as a new group of dignitaries ascended to the platform. Turning, he looked up into the sharp, intelligent face of a Doberman wearing a paisley tie and dressed in a three-piece suit.
Lovely day, isnt it, gentleman? the Doberman said.
They watched as he was ushered to his seat by a Senate page, followed by two French poodles and a Great Dane who was the current Governor of New York.
Now thats what I mean, the rabbi said. I hate to say this, but if humans hadnt used drugs and operated on them, theyd be just like all their untreated brethren. They wouldnt even be able to walk upright or ask for a milkbone!
I also dont mean to be critical, the bishop said, but its common knowledge they dont like to walk upright, and I believe they resent it. Its just not natural for them, and they only do it in public to impress us. He glanced over at two nearby beagles. Look at them. You can tell theyre covered with fleas and trying hard not to sniff at each other. His lips twitched. Tell me, how do you two gentlemen feel about well, having an Irish Setter as our First Man? Dear Lord, I remember having one as a pet when I was a little boy. His name was Goldy.
Dont you both think youre being a little xenophobic? the journalist said. I mean, what difference does it make if they were once animals and pets? What difference does it really make what it says in the Bible? Isnt their capability the important thing? Gentlemen, dogs have proved themselves to be allies of mankind and slowly but surely theyve won the trust and confidence of the people. He nodded out at the crowd of thousands before the Capitol Building. Since the pioneer experiments two hundred years ago, canine-Americans have proven themselves in all walks of life. In that time, like blacks and other groups before them, theyve all but conquered discrimination and prejudice, and today, as their supreme triumph, one of their own will be sworn in as the eighty-ninth President of the United States.
The bishop and rabbi studied him. Have you signed on with her PR staff or something? the former asked.
Well what if I have? I believe in President Sherman.
They gazed at him, then dropped their eyes.
Wheres it going to lead? the bishop said after a moment. Do you think He looked down at his hands. I wonder how theyll treat us when they get more power. A third of the seats in Congress already belong to them and a few apes, and with their drive
I know what you mean, the rabbi said. They are animals to begin with. We must never forget that.
Its not just racial pride, the bishop said. Theres something else that troubles me more. What if they want retribution?
Retribution? the journalist barked. What do you mean?
The bishop met his eyes. I mean revenge, sir. While dogs have always been known as Mans best friend, we havent always been theirs. God forgive us, but weve sometimes treated them cruelly. Weve beaten them, hurled insults, and often acted like beasts ourselves.
Yes, the rabbi said. And dont forget weve killed and tortured them. He raised his hand and counted off on his fingers. Dog fights for betting. Gas ovens at the SPCA. Atrocious animal experimentation
Wait a minute, the journalist said. Are you implying theyll remember those things and will want to even the score?
The bishop smiled ruefully. They wouldnt be human if they didnt.
The other stiffened. I cant believe that. If youll pardon the observation, Father, such sentiments lack charity and seem most inappropriate for a man of God. He glanced a couple of rows over to where the Mayor of Memphis, an elegantly dressed Pomeranian, was just sitting down. I cant believe it, he said. Ive interviewed hundreds of dogs with augmented intelligence, and have only the highest respect for their integrity and fairness. To me, as to many Americans who admire and vote for them, dogs are still Mans best friend. Theyre loyal, brave, and true and would never let us down. And I could never have accepted a position on President Shermans staff if I felt they would.
The rabbi nudged him. But what if youre wrong? Suppose they seize power and make us walk on all fours and wear collars? What if, in the end, its a simple matter of us against them?
Yes, the bishop said. What if our science and technology eventually destroy us, not through pollution and warfare as weve long feared, but by creating a rival who remembers how we treated them?
I cant believe that, the journalist said. Its total nonsense. He sat back, remembering despite himself recent reports of canine violence in the inner cities. And late last year, hadnt an organization consisting primarily of Dobermans and German shepherds ruthlessly taken over a key industry? He pulled his collar more closely together against the biting wind.
Footsteps. The three of them looked up to see the president-elect, a tall, aristocratic looking collie, move slowly across the platform followed by two bull mastiffs who had recently been added to the White Houses Secret Service. They watched her shake hands and paws with those in their row and drew carefully apart as she approached.
Stephen, the president-elect said to the journalist. Im so delighted you could be here today.
The journalist said something and started to rise, but a white paw pressed him down and patted his head. No, just stay put, no need to trouble yourself. Her eyes darted to the journalists acquaintances. Rabbi Klein, Bishop Zimmerman. How wonderful you both could join us.
Despite what shed said to the journalist, they both rose with strained smiles and shook the president-elects paw, aware of the powerful presence of the bull mastiffs with their black, mask-like muzzles.
Standing before them, her hind paws enclosed in a three-thousand-dollar pair of alligator shoes, the soon-to-be-inaugurated chief executive laughed winningly and uttered pleasantries they barely heard. Instead, both felt spellbound by her dark, intelligent eyes, well rounded muzzle, and by her moist nose that quivered as if scenting the air.
The president-elects jaws opened in what looked like a grin. Its a great day, gentlemen, she said, the first day of a new era. And I guarantee you, Im going to make some changes.
Yes, maam, they said.
Suddenly the president-elect groaned and bent over, pressing her thick middle.
Is something wrong? the rabbi said.
Ill be all right. Its just my condition, she gasped, her lolling tongue seeming to fascinate a middle-aged woman who stared open-mouthed at it.
The bishop reddened, remembering that the new chief executive was reportedly pregnant with five children. When are you uh, due? he said.
She straightened, apparently more comfortable. Im expecting in about six days, she said. Rather timely, dont you think?
Yes, my children should be among the first beneficiaries of my new Canine Rights bill. She paused at their confusion. Oh, Im sorry. Evidently you havent heard. The bill provides that dogs of all breeds receive intelligence-augmenting and vocal cord treatment at a few weeks of age.
The rabbi blinked. All dogs?
The president-elects jaws opened in what they could now clearly tell was a grin. Without exception, she said, patting their shoulders. They watched as she left them to greet more supporters.
The rabbi trembled, watching her mingle. I cant see any sign of a tail, he said. You think shes had it removed?
The bishop shook his head. Take my word for it, rabbi. Like the Mark of the Beast, its hidden but still there.
Self-consciously they sat down and remained silent, not even looking at each other. It was only later when the president-elect faced the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who would administer the Oath of Office, that the rabbi turned to the bishop.
The Canine Rights bill, he said. Do you realize what it means if it gets passed and every pup of every litter gets treated?
The bishop studied the president-elect as she placed her paw on the Bible. The bitch! he said.
The rabbi frowned. Come to think of it, theres talk of another bill thats even more troubling. I didnt take it seriously before, but now
The bishop and journalist both glanced at each other. Another bill? they chorused.
The rabbi watched the president-elect as she recited the Oath of Office in measured, assured tones. Its just a rumor, he said. Theres nothing at all to confirm it yet.
Never mind that, the bishop hissed. What is it? What else is in store?
The rabbi swallowed, rubbing his knee. Sterilization, he whispered.
He nodded, seeing that the centuries-old rite concerning the supreme office of the land was about to conclude. Just before the applause rang out, he turned to both of them.
According to what I heard, it provides for spaying and neutering. He swallowed again, not meeting their eyes. Ill give you just one guess, he said, about whos on the cutting end.