One day I was out walking along a common path near my house. A dog came running up to me. A big dog. A German Shepherd, as I recall. And he was looking like he meant business. Not giving me “let’s play” signals, but “Let’s go, motherfucker,” signals. As in growling.

There was no owner anywhere to be seen.

Now this is an ongoing problem in a few areas, but now is not the time…

…because this dog is roughly twenty feet away and he looks like he wants trouble.

So, I gamble.

I assume that like most dogs around here, he was taught in English and taught using common English words. I’m assuming he’s owned by some ding-dong and not someone who would slyly teach their dog to only respond to Bast commands.

So I plant my feet jam a finger right at him in the air and push out a stentorian “NO!”


…he stopped.

He stopped, looked confused for a second, then sat. He whined a little.

I held that exact pose. Why screw up a win, right?

I wasn’t sure what to do next, but I didn’t have to make a decision. Just then the dog’s owner wandered around the corner.

He gobbled about how he was sorry, and how his dog wouldn’t hurt anyone.

I didn’t move, kept my eyes on the dog.

Once the owner had a hand on him, I lowered my arm and walked around them.

I did not speak to the owner.

I revisit this scenario once in a while and remind myself how much we are unconsciously programmed in nearly every facet of our day. The programming is so common and so ubiquitous that we don’t even know it until it hits. Until someone uses it on us. And we respond accordingly.

It’s like The Voice from Frank Herbert’s Dune books. We obey before we even know we are obeying.

I wonder how much of who and what we think we do by our own will is simply a program.

I wonder what a meta-command would sound like. Such as “No!” to the dog that found me.