DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have had my unusually intelligent dog, “Regina,” enrolled in a class to learn advanced tricks. Each dog learned one major trick to demonstrate in a showcase at the end.
A different owner taught her dog to close a cupboard upon command, bringing in a detached cupboard and happily demonstrating that her dog would now nose the cupboard closed upon hearing, “Close it.” After the showcase, the cupboard was open as the students chatted with the instructor.
I mentioned that I should teach Regina the cupboard trick. Without really thinking, just mentally practicing, I looked at Regina and said, “Close it.” Regina promptly did so, since she knew what I meant after watching the other dog do it once.
The other owner’s face fell. I could see she was a little dismayed. I could see how it was thunder-stealing for Regina to easily learn something that had taken the other dog several weeks. I didn’t know what to do, though, so I just stood there awkwardly until the conversation moved on.
The real solution here is probably not to utter commands absentmindedly, but since that already happened, is there anything I could have done to defuse the situation after? I can’t very well tell someone that I’m sorry my dog is so smart, but perhaps I could have made a joke along the lines of, “Oh, your dog must have explained it to her,” or simply said I was sorry without specifying why.
This situation probably arises for parents of highly gifted children, too. What, if anything, should I have done?
GENTLE READER: This course delivered more than was promised: The other dog learned both to close the cabinet and to teach it to his fellow canines. At least that is what Miss Manners would approve your graciously asserting to ease embarrassment all around. Then Regina’s owner will also have learned a new trick.