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Warm Dogs and Kind Human Connections

These kids. They can’t back up a car without a camera. They can’t go two minutes without a phone.
What kind of future awaits a person who can’t be bothered to turn his/her/their heads? What kind of pronouns will we see in 20 years? Will there still be gender-specific pronouns? Or will we all be “its.”
In 2043, just how bad will the Grammys be?
Me, I’ll put my money on a very bright future. Instead of kids, you’ll order a few robots. They’ll deliver themselves.
Robots don’t wear earbuds or argue when you tell them to put their underwear away. There would be no debates, like the one I had the other day with Smartacus over whether that rice drink “boba” qualifies as a refreshment or an oral enema. (I say enema … all those little curds. Ewww.)
Say what you will about our crazy kids with their crazy fads. They keep life interesting. Obviously, I was never very fond of emotional restraint anyway.
My son Smartacus is still a kid. He had a dual-dog morning the other day, meaning two dogs sandwiched him in bed, like he was some sort of royal heir.
FYI, Smartacus is a ginger, so you’re expecting to see a bit of dysfunction there anyway. I can see why the two dogs thought he was royalty. Doesn’t take direction well. He’s sort of our own Prince Harry.
Let me just say that if Smartacus ever brings home a throne-wrecker like Meghan Markle, he’s out of the will, and I’m not leaving him my Dick Butkus jersey like I’d planned. All my treasures — my garden tools, my Motorhead albums — will go to Cakes, who is also a ginger. But at least she gets me.
Not many people do.
If I had a personal ad: “Existential man of dubious virtue seeks same, except in a woman. Must know plumbing.”
By the way, if a hotel robot carried your luggage, would you tip it? Could it tuck you in? Could it bring you juice with the morning paper? Could you call it the next day?
The future is very bright is all I’m saying. So many wonders ahead.
Look, I don’t understand dew points, or dairy farms, or why Jupiter has 92 moons. I don’t get what Suzanne sees in me, or even why honeybees love me so much, or why Smartacus gets double-dogged every morning before breakfast.
I’m a simple dude, really. I still have unfinished homework from the 4th grade. My combined SAT scores? Minus 1.
I can’t even remember my wedding day, just the six-month honeymoon. Such bonhomie! Such bruises!
My sole memory from childhood is walking the dog in the frigid Chicago winters and having him freeze up on me, lift his little front paw in pain and surrender, simply unable to go on.
I was 8 at the time, a total ginger, and we all know what that means. Teachers automatically disliked me, especially the gym teachers. I ran like a lobster with a rash they couldn’t treat.
But when our dog would freeze up, I would rub his frozen paw and whisper “You can do this, Dutch, you really can,” then end up carrying the poor dog home, a grateful dachshund slipping through my arms, across the dark prairie parking lots, frozen like ponds.
Tell me, who is the smarter animal in that dynamic? The one getting the free ride, obviously.
Could today’s kids do something heroic like that? Bet they could, if Mom didn’t answer their cellphone pleas to come get them in her Rover.
Point is, we’re all heroes in some weirdly of-the-moment fashion. As I told Suzanne the other day, defending my do-nothing lifestyle in a do-nothing world: “Sometimes just sticking with things on a day-to-day basis is an achievement all its own.”
“Naw,” she said.
Point taken.
Finally, an interesting study about our need for connection, canine and otherwise.
A Harvard study found that warm connections with other people were the key to a contented life.
Not trust funds, not fame or Oscars, just “warm connections with other people.”
According to the study, even casual connections can have real benefits — the barista you banter with, or the supermarket checker who asks, “Hey, I really like that sweater.”
“Those more casual ties turn out to give us little hits of well-being,” Harvard psychiatrist Robert Waldinger explained.
Which is bad news for robots and those self-help kiosks I loathe.
And good news for actual humans like you.
For books, hikes and cool gin glasses, please go to ChrisErskineLA.com. To schedule a speaking engagement, email the columnist at Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com.


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