Pooch ‘Talk’ 

You strap one of these devices onto Fido’s collar, so the publicity says, and when Fido barks it will transmit signals to a handheld device whose screen will give you a basic readout of what Fido is trying to tell you.

For example, “Yip, yip, yip” might translate to, “I’m hungry,” or “Yip, yap, yip-yip-ahroo” might mean, “I just chewed up your slipper and buried it under the azaleas.”

Bow-Lingual’s makers claim that this is not some tricked-up version of a Ouija board for pooches. They say their researchers spent months studying the bark patterns of various breeds of dogs, then broke them down into six emotional groupings: happy, sad, frustrated, needy, on guard and assertive.

Then they programmed in 178 different phrases to represent those basic moods. A “happy” bark, for example, might produce a readout that has your dog saying, “Let’s do this all day!” Or, a “needy” bark might translate to, “I’m desperate for a hug.”

If they come out with a “Lassie Celebrity Model,” I suspect that those same barks might translate to, “Timmy fell down the well!” or “There’s trouble down at the abandoned mine shaft!”

I haven’t had a pet dog in some time. The last one that shared my household barked only after midnight, in ear-piercing, horror-film graveyard tones that would have brought Mussolini back from the dead. If they’d had a Bow-Lingual device back then, I’m sure it’s translation would have been, “Satan’s on the front porch, and he’s waving a pork chop!”

I never figured that dog out. Her only other known emotion would have translated to, “Nothing on earth tastes sweeter than a meter reader’s shinbone.”

The Bow-Lingual device has one other really cool feature: With the tap of a couple of buttons, you can program it to record your puppy’s barks while you’re away, in the event that you want to know what he’s saying about you behind your back.

I’m guessing that the device’s translation, on playback, will say the predictable stuff: “I’m lonely,” or “I want to go outside.” More realistic would be a recording that catches Fido saying, “I think I’ll take a whiz in the linen closet. Nobody will suspect a thing.”

If I sound skeptical of this Bow-Lingual technology, you’re getting a good translation. Still, there are some 67 million dogs in the United States, 66.9 million of whom belong to a certifiable “dog person” who would sooner see an in-law come down with rabies than their little poochie.

At $120 a pop, the makers of the Bow-Lingual translator need collar only a small percentage of the pooch people as customers before they’ll be doing some barking of their own. And it probably will sound something like “Yip-yip-yowl-eeee” — or, roughly translated, “Fortunately for us, most people aren’t half as bright as their pets.” S

Dave Addis is a columnist for The Virginian-Pilot. This column appeared first in The Virginian-Pilot. © 2003 HamptonRoads.com/PilotOnline.com. Contact Dave at 757-446-2726, or dave.addis@cox.net


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