“We don’t know what to do with her,” said Mr Mutt to the principal. “We’ve tried everything. We are at our wits’ end.”
“I do have a suggestion,” said the principal, who had given The Matter of Florence much thought. “Take these books home and read them to your daughter before bed. Books fix everything.”
The principal handed over a weighty tome called Human Anatomy. Then she handed over a book called Dog Anatomy. “The thing is, Florence thinks she is a dog. Compare these books side by side and Florence will soon learn that humans are nothing like dogs.”
Mr and Mrs Mutt exchanged dubious looks.
But as mentioned, Mr and Mrs Mutt were at their wits’ end. So they did as they were told. That night at bedtime they sat with Florence and showed her the anatomy books, side-by-side.
“Hold up your thumb, Florence.”
Florence held up her right thumb, which had always been a little higher up her wrist.
“Humans have thumbs,” explained her mother. “Dogs, on the other hand, have ‘dew claws’.”
“You said ‘on the other hand’. So dogs can have hands.”
“What? No, that’s just an expression.”
“Dogs CAN have hands,” insisted Florence. “And kids can have paws, if they want.”
Mr and Mrs Mutt rolled their eyes at each other.
“What about this lovely bushy tail of mine?” asked Florence, giving it a wag inside her pyjama pant. She pointed to the person in the Human Anatomy book — a gruesome creature with no flesh and no skin. Human Anatomy didn’t say much about tails — just a label pointing to the ‘tail bone’. Its tail had been chopped off!
“Let’s just pretend you don’t have a lovely bushy tail,” said Mr Mutt, “for the sake of the exercise.”
“Ooh, look at this!” said Mrs Mutt, quickly flipping the page. “This human in the book has an elbow. You also have elbows, see? Because you are a human.”
“Dogs have elbows too,” said Florence. It was true. The dog in the Dog Anatomy book had two elbows on its front legs, high up and a bit bald at the back.
“Yes, okay, all right, but what about knees? Only humans have knees. Dogs do not have knees. They have ‘hocks’, see?”
“I too have hocks!” exclaimed Florence. Finally she knew the proper name for her ‘backwards knees’. “I have dog hocks! I knew it! I knew I was part dog!”
Mr and Mrs Mutt slammed the anatomy books shut.
“And I knew this was a terrible idea,” sighed Mr Mutt. “Frankly I’ve had it up to here with professional advice.”
Mr and Mrs Mutt kissed their dog-daughter on the head then retired to the living room to watch some sort of documentary about anything other than dogs.
As usual, Florence smuggled Fluffikins from his bone-shaped sleeping mat into her own bed. This time they talked into the night about their unusual bodies.
Fluffikins pointed out his strangely human knees, which made Florence feel better. He had always thought he had back-to-front ‘hocks’, but now he was sure he had regular human ‘knees’. This was reassuring.
Then he parted the overlong fluff on his face and Florence felt how his snout was sort of more like a human nose. “Other dogs are more dog-like,” he whispered under the cloak of darkness. “Do you know what I mean?”
Eventually the dog-humans drifted off into a peaceful, reassured slumber.
“Don’t slobber into our pillow,” Fluffikins mumbled, though that ship had sailed.