The highest degree of talent

By Amy Mori

My father strode through the doorway that night with a smile on his face.

“I have earned my PhD degree today,” he proudly said before my mother could criticize his being late for dinner.

“Cool!” I exclaimed, even though I really had no idea what a PhD was. “What’s your next degree?”

“My dear daughter, what are you talking about?” he scooped me up in his arms. “A PhD is the highest degree you can possibly get!” And so I assumed that my father must be a genius. After all, seeing how proud he was of his accomplishment, he probably got his PhD because he was so smart for all I knew!

Little did I know that there was yet an individual who had the potential to outsmart my ‘genius’ father. I saw that particular individual every day, in fact. He would always be chasing down some bird or sleeping in our backyard unless we were to throw out spare food for him. My parents had named him ‘Tommy’ when they first adopted him as a puppy. Despite the fact that Tommy was just an innocent yellow dog, there was one thing he loved to do more than anything else - to escape the wooden fence that surrounded and enclosed our backyard.

My mother in particular despised such a behavior. She always met Tommy sitting in our front yard every day she came home from work. With a swat on his rear end from her newspaper, Tommy would sadly walk back through the gate. The next day, however, he would always escape again.

My father decided to put an end to this. He spent hours investigating our backyard that weekend for any openings that Tommy might have slipped through. He found his answer when he spotted a big hole in the fence that Tommy had chewed out. After nailing boards over the hole, my father attached a wire net around the whole fence to ensure that Tommy would never chew off the wood again.

I was sitting in the living room as I watched my father enter the doorway looking pleased with himself as he wiped beads of sweat off his face.

“Did you fix it?” I heard my mother ask anxiously from the kitchen.

“Of course I did!” replied my father. “Tommy will never get out again! I am 100% sure!” He sat down next to me.

“Don’t you have such a smart Daddy?” he whispered in my ear.

A few days later, however, my mother was greeted by the sight of Tommy sitting in the driveway when she got home from work. My father was ordered to find the reason for Tommy’s escape once more the moment he came home that night. One afternoon he decided to watch Tommy from the bedroom window. The dog hovered around the fence for a while, and then started digging a hole underneath the fence itself! My father was furious. He took out a container of black pepper and went into the backyard. After sprinkling pepper all around the fence, he went back inside and watched the dog once more. Tommy went back to his unfinished hole and started digging once more, but this time he sneezed constantly as he tried to scrape away the dirt. The sneezing became so irritating that he eventually gave up and walked away, leaving my father to laugh at him from inside the house.

“Ha! Tommy will never get out this time!” he snickered. He saw me watching him from a couch and sat down next to me.

“Don’t you have such a smart Daddy?” he chuckled.

On Friday my family packed for a weekend trip to Houston . Before we left, I saw my father sneer at Tommy through the window of our van before he started driving.

The night we came back wasn’t the best night for my father. As the car light lit up our driveway, I noticed a dim figure sitting near the front gate. When the light fell upon it, I saw as well as my father that it was Tommy. This time the dog almost seemed to be laughing at my father.

After watching Tommy through the window again the next afternoon, my father saw the dog swat away all the pepper with its feet before digging.

It turns out that my dog is able to outsmart my father, even if he has a PhD. To this day, my father still can’t prevent the escapes. Perhaps Tommy deserves a PhD too?

Amy Mori - Texas 6/2020