ELKE AND BELAM by Maurice Rowdon


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Elke and Belam, a poodle and a saluki, are the talking dogs of Berchtesgaden. Talking? Tapping: they tap a certain number of times for each letter of the German alphabet, spelling out messages in the hand of their trainer Dorothy Meyer, a former personnel consultant. The spellings are generally phonetic and frequently require generous interpretation. The word order is often jumbled (""cruel about this to speak"") and the dogs tend to be laconic. Are they coached for occasions? Probably not, although at the start they ""seemed to unlearn"" many of their skills. Are they responding to subtle cues? Perhaps, but they do tap voluntarily. Are they the Einsteins of the animal world? No, but they do communicate factual information, their feelings and thoughts well enough to impress those fortunate few who visit their classroom. Rowdon was one of the lucky, and he's detailed their daily lessons as they grow from reluctant learners, dozing off--or running off--after a few taps, to today's bright-eyed achievers. Multiplication becomes as easy as barking, whole sentences replace telegram messages, and a second language (English) is introduced. But Rowdon's lackluster effort, which involves constant translation of the German taps, means some awkward pauses for the reader who must wait for the message and rely on the validity of Meyer's clarifying questions (Belam taps NIRL; she asks if he means NIERE; he taps yes). Not meaty enough for skeptics but a sure pick-me-up for the dogmatic.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1977
Publisher: Putnam