Scott Hollifield: All in the name of science

In the name of science – and because I knew there would be no peace until I did it – I spent most of a Sunday afternoon driving my senior biology major daughter from the home of one dog owner to another and another and another so she could determine why dogs do something I care nothing about.

At the end of the day, I felt I was well on my way to either earning a master’s degree in animal behavior or securing a position as assistant manager at PetSmart.

This adventure began a month or so before with a phone call from the kid.

“I need to do an animal experiment for a class I’m taking.”

I was eager to offer advice.

“Would this involve grafting the head of a cat onto a dog? Because while this may seem a like a good premise if one were to go by the very popular 1990s Nickelodeon cartoon ‘CatDog,’ subsequent movies on the Syfy channel like ‘Piranhaconda,” ‘Sharktopus’ and ‘Dinocroc’ have taught me that man should not meddle in God’s handiwork, lest he unleash a beast that will bring about terrible destruction.”

“Nope,” she said, “I’m not grafting any heads onto anything. I intend to replicate a study that blah, blah blah…”

She went on explaining in detail what she hoped to accomplish but I was thinking about what a great movie “Sharktopus vs. Piranhaconda” would be if Syfy could get Gary Busey to play a retired scientist with a bionic hand enlisted by the government to find a way to stop the title monsters from destroying Seattle.

“… and that’s why I need your help,” she said after several more blah-blahs.

“Certainly,” I said. “Anything I can do to assist you in graduating on time so I can eventually stop being as poor as I am right now is something I will do, even if it is meddling in God’s handiwork and unleashing a beast that will bring about terrible destruction.”

Instead, it turned out to be rounding up as many dog owners as possible to allow their pets to take part in the experiment.

To accomplish this, I began my pitch to potential study participants with, “Hey, can I come over Sunday and experiment on your dog?” This approach did not work as well as I had hoped.

I revised my pitch.

“Congratulations! You and your pet have been preselected to participate in an important and rewarding college-level study that will not only advance theories about animal behavior but will be a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon! You’ll love this experiment and so will your pet!”

“So, just what is this experiment?”

“Danged if I know, but I’ve been assured we will not meddle in God’s handwork and unleash a beast that will bring about terrible destruction. I’m about 80 percent sure of that.”

Eventually, I found five owners of 10 dogs within a 15-mile radius who agreed to participate in whatever it was we were doing. All I really know is that it involved a compass, a tape measure, two bowls and dog treats and I drove while she calculated, scribbled and said, “Hmmm” a lot which I learned from Syfy channel movies is a good scientist sound and much, much better than “We’ve got to get out of here – NOW!” or “It’s killing me!”

By the time the sun went down on that Sunday, I was tired of dogs and tired of driving but we had accomplished what we set out to do, which was something I still don’t understand.

“You know,” I said as we pulled back into the driveway, “even though we grafted no heads and did not meddle in God’s handiwork and unleash a beast that will bring about terrible destruction, I feel a sense of accomplishment now that this experiment is over.”

“Oh, it’s not over,” she said. “I need 10 more dogs.”

“Do what now?”

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at rhollifield@mcdowellnews,com.

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