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Clarifying comment policy (04/10/2011)
By Frances Edstrom
“Okay,” I said to the dog-who-must-not-be-written-about, “sit down, we need to talk.”

He always takes his time sitting, as if the messenger relaying his brain’s transmission to his butt has discovered that the route is blocked and has to take a detour. After I waited for what seemed a ridiculously long time, his hind end hit the floor.

“I have been reading in the newspaper about clarifying policies on public comment at board meetings…” I began.

“Oh,” he said, “the school board?”

“Well, yes,” I said. “And I think they have a point. Sometimes people just don’t understand what’s acceptable as far as public comment goes. They don’t understand that public servants are very sensitive…I think the board has a point. I mean public comment is all right, but with limitations.”

“Sort of like ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’?” he asked.

“Precisely!” I said. “I’m glad you understand. So, I am going to make a few clarifications to our policies on your perceived rights to comment on my actions such as pertain to you.”

“Wait a minute! Before you bought me, you told me I should always be honest with you. You said you want to know if you’re doing a good job or not. Are things going to be different now?”

“Well, not really different, just clarified,” I said.

“I know my human English has some limitations,” he said, “but can you give examples?”

“Sure. For instance, I think it is no longer acceptable for you to take a dog biscuit and then spit it out if you don’t like it.”

“Sorry, a lack of opposable thumbs puts limitations on the removal of food from my mouth,” he said.

“That’s all well and good, but it hurts my feelings, and I have to pick up the biscuit and throw it away. So, from now on, if you don’t like a dog biscuit, you have the right to tell me so in a manner that doesn’t reflect on my performance as a dog owner.”

“Oh, how will I do that?” he asked.

“You will write me a note telling me you have a comment. You can use the computer if a pen is too cumbersome. And you will deliver the note to me on Sunday nights. Then I will have several days to think over what you’ve said and decide if I want to hear your case, which I will do the next Sunday.”

“Sort of like the Supreme Court?” he asked.

“You show a good knowledge of Civics,” I said. “So yes, we’ll suppose I’m the Supreme Court…”

“But,” he said, “you’ll be the only court. So in effect, I have no rights to comment on the quality of my life, because if you don’t like the idea of hearing a complaint…”

I had to clarify. “It’s not complaints I don’t want to hear. I’m afraid you will stoop to personal attacks! And we can’t have that!”

“So,” he said, “if I say ‘I don’t like that brand of dog biscuit, it’s tasteless and unhealthy for me,’ is that a complaint?”

“Well, no,” I said. “That would be a personal attack. You see you are implying that there is something wrong with me that I would choose such a dog biscuit. It’s just a clarification.”

“But how do I tell you I don’t like the dog biscuit if I can’t spit it out and I can’t tell you.”

“You don’t! It makes things so much more comfortable for me. I’m glad we had this little talk, and I’m sure you agree that this policy clarification will improve our relationship greatly.”

“Could you let me out, please?” he asked. “I think I need to eat some grass.” 


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