By Alfie Novak, assisted by Lindsey Parker Novak
One of the most serious writing problems people have, which I think will lead to overall communication problems, is word choice. For the past decade, people have been overly concerned with being politically correct. They agonize over choosing the right word – the one word that will skirt around the issue, say it politely, and offend no one. People have made word choice so difficult an exercise that it seems they think political correctness is more important than honesty. In that search for just the right word to ease the reader into the possible bad news or unfavorable situation, the writer sacrifices clarity, and more important, honesty of the message.
Call it naiveté, but I prefer honesty. As a dog, I am nothing but honest. When I love, I wildly wag my tail and my behind. When I am scared, such as when my mom, Lindsey, wants to bathe me, I drop my head and rush to hide under the bed. She’s a gentle bather, but I can’t help it – I just hate water. When I am hungry, I howl and sing for my meals. When I want to be petted, I nuzzle her hand or leg, or whatever I can reach, so she knows I need to be touched right then. The point is that I always show my feelings. I don’t hide my joy, my fear, my anxiety, or my desires.
And yes, I call her my owner. I know just what you are thinking. Calling her my owner is not politically correct. Well, I say “rubbish.” That’s right. All this political correctness is dog poop.
Extremists are demanding that people call themselves “pet companions.” Frankly, I want more than a companion, I love her and I want her to own me. I want someone to take responsibility and take good care of me. I want my owner to tell everybody that I belong to her, that I am her dog and no one else’s. That tells me she is dedicated to me. That tells me she will give me the kind of committed love I want and deserve. To feel that type of love and loyalty, “owner” is clearly the proper word.
She is not some pet companion who happens to occasionally take me for a walk. She is mine as much as I am hers. She feeds me breakfast, lunch, dinner, and healthy snacks because I am adorable. And because she knows nobody likes to eat a hunk of food at one time and then starve for the rest of the day. She is responsible to me and for me, and that comes with ownership. We love each other deeply, and of course, she is my companion, too.
But “companion” isn’t strong enough. I don’t want people to think they can borrow me or think that I am a casual friend, or worse yet, someone who is paid to be with me. She wants to be with me, and that is the best choice she has ever made. I am her dog, her possession, and yes, she owns me. If someone tried taking me, she would tear out after the person, knowing I am hers and hers alone. I would never go off with any other human no matter what the person offered me. We keep an eye on each other.
What if someone heard her refer to me as her pet companion? This person might think I am available and try to lure me away with biscuits or any other form of edible treats. If I were like our neighbor’s dog, a real chowhound, any form of food might be used to entice me to run off with another woman. I am simply not interested. I prefer the obvious and proper word of “owner,” because with ownership comes warmth, love, loyalty, and responsibility. I want her to feel a sense of ownership. I am not just a ship passing in the night. I belong to her, and she belongs to me.
Words have many connotations, but staying away from the words that “say it like it is” is a mistake. Communication needs to be straightforward, clear, and concise. My owner, which I plan on calling her for as long as I live, often chooses other choice words to describe me, and I lap it up when she refers to me as prince of pooches, love bunny, honey bunny, baby cakes, sweet pea and myriad other names of affection. She even refers to me as “my king of the house.” So with titles such as these, a handsome dog like me would be a fool to object to her saying she owns me. I howl “Hurrah for being owned and down with political correctness.” Now, if we could get everyone else to use the proper words when writing, we would not have the communication breakdowns that seem to affect us all.
Alfie Novak by Lindsey Parker Novak
Alfie’s favorite word is “massage,” which means his silky, silver-gray hair is going to be brushed with a luxurious natural bristle brush. His least favorite word is “bath.” Alfie has a multitude of sounds that stream out when he experiences the delight of a new and healthy treat, and follows those rolling notes with a giant smile. He learned his vocabulary from Lindsey, who is committed to him for life.