Canine Structure

I recently re-read Jakobson’s “Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances” for my graduate seminar. This is one of those intro to theory and methodology courses required for first-year students, which causes you to re-read items you haven’t re-read since the times (probably first-year graduate school) you thought they were particularly important to re-read. I’ve always had an affinity for Jakobson, and once upon a time I actually cited the aphasia essay in an article I wrote comparing Brasília and LA. By this point, though, today I mean, I’d rather sit down with him, Roman Jakobson that is, open a bottle of vodka and chat for a while, rather than analyze his structuralism yet again. Either way, I render Jakobson aphasic:  in the former hypothetical case, Jakobson would be unable to replicate himself as “Jakobson” within another object, another theory, and we can call this the “similarity disorder.”  In the latter hypothetical case, some “Jakobson,” far-away and now dead, only speaks to us only by means of a disembodied object, some disembodied article of theory, and we can call this the “continuity disorder.”

But this is not my point here. In between blog-posts, and truth be told, in between everything I do, I spend time with my dogs. And truth be told again, I really do whatever it is I do in between spending time with my dogs and not the other way around. And I’ll leave it for you to figure out how this last reversal of predicates works, before I start telling any more truths again.

The younger of the two, Teo (full name: Teofil Woloszynski-Read), has an unusual affinity for items of clothing, an affinity bordering on a fetish. He’s just barely old enough to be left alone when I’m out of the house. He no longer chews things up, he is certainly house-trained, and though he’s exceedingly happy when I come home, he does not appear to suffer any separation anxiety when I’m gone. He will, however, latch on to any piece of clothing he can find. Socks are his favorite. If he finds his way into my dressing room, or into the dirty-clothes hamper in the bathroom, he’ll snatch a pair with incredible speed and stealth. Oftentimes when I’m cleaning, I’ll find pairs of socks in some strange corner of the kitchen, lodged between the refrigerator and the cabinet, or in the living room behind one of the stereo speakers. We can call this misplacement of socks the “continuity disorder.” And other times, I’ll grab one sock to wear, but I can’t find the other. Indeed, the number of socks that have lost their twins over the past year since I’ve had Teo is alarming. I almost have as many singles as I do doubles, and we can call this the “similarity disorder.”

Teo steals to feed his fetish, but he is a careful thief indeed. He doesn’t chew on socks or sandals or shoes — his fetish tends toward the lower extremities rather than the torso or head. He doesn’t gnaw on them or put holes in them. He usually just keeps whatever it is he’s purloined on his front paws, holding it close to his snout while he sleeps. Recently — and this is odd — he’s taken to stealing a terry-cloth glove I keep by the sliding door leading to the backyard. The glove was designed specifically for rubbing dirty paws, cleaning the mud off of them when the pups come back inside, before they can track mud all over the house. They track mud and dirt all over the house anyway, but this glove is rather ingenious. The glove has six-fingers. And while you might think that this was thoughtful of the manufacturer, taking into consideration those consumers with genetic abnormalities, you would be wrong. The glove has two opposable thumbs, thus discounting your theory of genetic abnormality, since our six-fingered fellow humans typically have an extra pinky, but never an extra thumb. Everyone knows this to be true. In fact, thanks to the wonders of global capitalism, I can now go online and shop around hundreds of stores for the cheapest price on a piece of towel (80% polyester, 20% polyamide) assembled in Korea and cut-and-sewn into the shape of a mutant six-fingered and two-thumbed hand. Two thumbs so that it can be worn on either hand, wear it on the right leaving the rightmost thumb empty or flipping it over onto the left hand leaving the leftmost thumb empty, left or right, right or left, and left or right again, capitalism at its ambidextrous and bisexual best. We could call this disorder the “commodity fetish,” but I am writing here about Roman Jakobson and not Karl Marx — a Russian and not a German or a Korean.  Although technically, Teo is a German shorthaired pointer with a Polish name.

Teo has taken to this mutant glove like a mutant to a mutant glove. He’ll fish it out of the little basket that I fill with old towels and rags in my vainglorious/quixotic quest to prevent mud and dirt from entering the house. But Teo — and this odd — never pulls out any of the old towels or rags, just the mutant glove. You see, Teo needs something that has been physically connected to my body. It seems to give him comfort during those times he can’t actually sniff my body directly. We can call this the “continuity disorder.” Or perhaps the “similarity disorder.” It’s so hard to keep those two apart in my mind.

My older dog, Ziggy (full name: Zygmunt Woloszynski-Read), has several other disorders that could be named, too. He’s a dog, after all, and part of canine being is being disorderly. One need only look at the numerous muddy paw prints all over my floors to bear witness to this supreme fact. But no need to start diagnosing Ziggy now and naming all his disorders. After all, this is a blog-post about Roman. Not Lacan.

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