Nov. 23, 2003: Conversations With Sheila About Shirley

Shirley MacLaine, the actress whose elevator doesn’t quite reach the top floor, has written a book in which she claims she talks to her dog, a rat terrier named Terry. According to MacLaine, she and Terry communicate in “Humanimal,” which she says is a “purer, more direct form of language” than English. Hopefully, she makes more sense to Terry than she does to the rest of us.

MacLaine says she and Terry have shared at least one past life together in ancient Egypt and possibly more. Terry says it wasn’t Egypt; it was Ozark, Alabama, which he thinks looks a lot like Egypt.

I’m not sure if MacLaine is pulling our leg or if she and Terry really do sit down and shoot the breeze from time to time, so I decided to ask Sheila, the family wonder dog. If anybody would know, she would. Fortunately, I caught her just as she was headed out the door for a potty break and a quick squirrel chase.

DY: I appreciate your taking the time to talk to me. As you know, I have tried to talk to you on more than one occasion, and to date, you have shown no interest.

SFWD: It’s my schedule. I sleep 20 hours a day and eat the other four. Who has time to talk?

DY: Would you prefer to talk in English or in Humanimal?

SFWD: It makes no difference to me. I have read a few of your columns, and I suspect one language is about as difficult for you as the other.

DY: Why have you agreed to be interviewed now?

SFWD: I am concerned about the impression your readers may have that rat terriers speak for all dogs. They do not. Frankly, most rat terriers are nitwits. Otherwise, they wouldn’t associate with dingbats like Shirley MacLaine.

DY: Are there any dogs who you particularly admire?

SFWD: I can’t say enough good things about Uga VI. Everybody associated with the mess at the University of Georgia seems to have gone off the deep end, except for Uga. While all you humans are snarling and yapping at each other, Uga VI continues to exhibit the utmost dignity and class. Watching what is going on in Athens makes me wonder why you call dogs “dumb animals.”

DY: With all due respect, wouldn’t you agree that people are a lot smarter than animals?

SFWD: Yeah, right. When was the last time you read about a bunch of cocker spaniels crashing airplanes into tall buildings?

DY: Anything else bothering you?

SFWD: Now that you mention it, I don’t like having my dog friends dragged into your petty squabbles with flaggers. I know you like to pick on them because they don’t have a sense of humor, but when a flagger recently referred to you as a “mangy cur,” that was a bit much. Those kind of comments reinforce a negative stereotype of dogs that isn’t helpful. Things are bad enough right now with people thinking that some rat terrier has the hots for Shirley MacLaine. Please suggest to the flaggers that in the future they use less pejorative terms, like “armadillo head” or “possum breath,” when expressing their displeasure with you. This will allow them to make their point adequately and not slander the entire canine genus.

DY: When you look at people, do any of them remind you of dogs?

SFWD: Yes, they do. John Kerry looks like a basset hound, except that his legs are too long. Vice President Dick Cheney reminds me of a rottweiler. I suspect that’s why the president keeps him on a leash. Chihuahua owners aren’t going to like this, but guess who I think of when I see Howard Dean?

DY: This has been a most enlightening conversation.

SFWD: Hey, glad I could help. Wish we could chat some more, but I have to go. Terry is on the phone and says he has a big problem. He keeps trying to bury Shirley MacLaine in the backyard and she keeps digging herself up.