I had heard humans yelling about it on the big talking box before. Angry white men in suits shouting, “The robots are going to take away all of our jobs!”
They argued about places called Detroit and Amazon – insisting that this was a catastrophic problem.
Mom didn’t seem too concerned about it be honest, though. Within a few minutes of the shouting, she had picked up her magic wand and there were new humans in the box, this time with lots of glitter and sequins talking about something else entirely. Apparently, it was time for someone to “Lip sync for their life,” according to this human named RuPaul.
I never thought about it much after that. I mean, I wasn’t worried about robots. My job security was stronger even than my most robust harness.
I’d been in my role for more than 50,000 walks, and despite a few chastisings here and there, my reviews were always glowing. I was told I was a good girl no less than five times a day on average. Clearly, I was born to do this job and over the years I’ve perfected my skills:
House protecter, someone is at the door notifier.
Big stretcher. Heavy sigher.
And of course, crumb cleaner.
I love my job – I always have. My day-to-day work is enjoyable and fulfilling. And while all of my responsibilities are important, I have to say crumb cleaning is without a doubt one of my signature strengths. I could be multiple rooms away, but if I hear something drop from Mom’s hands, the kitchen counter or the coffee table, I’m there in an instant – ready to get to work. I’ve licked up spilt spaghetti sauce. Inhaled dropped pieces of bacon and chicken before Mom even had a chance. And there was the legendary Super Bowl incident of 2018 in which Mom’s friend knocked over an entire bowl of potato chips. Naturally, I was there – ready to save the day.
It was the best.
But then, this past Christmas, everything changed. And I soon learned that concern about robots was very, very real.
I thought nothing of it at first – a harmless box sat in the corner for a few days after the humans had inexplicably removed the indoor tree after having just installing it a few weeks prior.
Then, one afternoon, Mom opened the box and out came an ominous black creature. I didn’t like the look of this new addition to our home, especially since it seemed to live on my level, laying on the dining room floor near the wall. As I investigated further, I became more concerned. It didn’t smell right, and despite my efforts, I could not determine where the creature’s butt was located so I could properly introduce myself.
No matter, though. This was still my turf.
And the next day it happened.
There was a high-pitched noise, similar to when Mom’s rectangle yells at her each morning, awaking both of us from our peaceful slumber.
I had been resting on the couch, just waking up from my late morning nap and determining what I should do before it was time for the early-afternoon siesta when it started.
I sprung into action, ready to defend our home. I charged the black robotic creature, barking and growling as it zigzagged around the room, bumping into furniture.
Could this be one of those robots I had been hearing about?
Mom, however, was unconcerned by this noisy intruder.
In fact, she seemed downright amused.
While I was panicked, figuring out how to save us from this menacing beast, giving it my absolutely meanest growl, Mom giggled, following me around with her rectangle pointed in my and the robot’s direction.
I couldn’t understand what was so funny.
THERE WAS A CRAZED ROBOT, ESSENTIALLY THE TERMINATOR COME TO LIFE, ROAMING AROUND OUR HOME, MAKING A LOUD NOISE.
And she was laughing.
I was on the case though, despite her indifference. I trailed the robot creature. Its motives were unknown: it traversed room to room without rhyme or reason. There was no ball it was following, no scent it was trailing. And then, I noticed something.
Everywhere it went, items on the floor disappeared.
My fur, which Mom was always complaining about. Lint and dust bunnies from the corners. Strands of Mom’s hair. Tiny scraps of paper. And yes, even crumbs of food that I had somehow missed during my daily cleaning endeavors.
After what felt like an eternity, the creature retreated back to its spot in the corner.
I was relieved but angry.
How could Mom do this to me? Was I being replaced – no, it just wasn’t possible. Unimaginable. But then I started to consider the mounting evidence of this betrayal:
First, the creature lived not on Mom’s level – up high, the areas that despite my impressive vertical leap, I could not reach. No, it stalked my area. The ground, the floor, where I sat and slept and ate and played and drank. It was infuriating really.
Not only that, but the creature was noisy. So so loud. Which Mom knows I hate.
Most importantly though, the creature’s purpose seemed to be picking up crumbs. One of my most important and enjoyable roles! Why would she do this? Had I ever been anything but steadfastly loyal and utterly willing to help pick up any spill?
And this was how I was repaid.
It was a slap in the face.
A few days later, Mom had that other human over – the tall one who sometimes has fur growing from his chin and whose socks smell amazing. I heard them talk about “the Roomba” for several minutes. Mom handed over her rectangle. And somehow the device replicated the creature’s obnoxious sounds, although it sat unmoving in its corner while the two of them laughed. Meanwhile, I sat on the floor glaring up at them, giving my very best side-eye (which I must say, is quite good).
And then, the high-pitched noise sounded again. It moved and the nightmare started all over.
Again, I ran towards the robot – who I now understood to be named Roomba, my mortal enemy. This time, I would show it who was boss. This was my house – I would not be intimidated.
Again, we battled. Me, barking and growling, following it around the house. Roomba was clearly scared; it tried to ignore me. Or so I thought. But then it suddenly changed directions and was headed right for me, making that terrible, terrible noise. I was forced to scamper back quickly – a move I will admit was unbecoming for a dog of my tested bravery when confronting piles of leaves, distant birds and delivery people on the other side of the door.
While I tried to fight Roomba with honor, the creature seemed to have amazing reserves of energy. It went through the entire house – sometimes going back to areas it had already patrolled. I finally retreated to the couch, surrendering the floor level, though it shamed me.
Mom called me to her, but I sat at the other end of the couch. Too hurt and upset with her betrayal to cuddle while she tolerated its sound and fury.
Next thing I knew, however, she had grabbed my front legs and flipped me onto my back. The belly rub commenced, and my anger melted away. I have never been able to stay mad at her. Even when she buys the wrong brand of pebbles for me to eat, puts me in silly outfits or makes me take a bath. I love her too much.
“Awww, it’s ok baby. You’ll get used to Roomba,” she cooed in the special voice she used specifically to communicate with me.
I exhaled loudly, wanting her to know my displeasure with the situation, but unwilling to end the belly rub in progress.
Time passed however, probably about 600 years. And I will say, she was right.
Roomba and I have negotiated a tentative peace.
I hate to admit it, but it’s forced me to raise my game.
After realizing that Mom usually only allows Roomba to operate on Saturday mornings, I’ve made a point to be more on top of things. The cracker crumbs, stray pieces of shredded cheese and abandoned cereal flakes, are mine for the taking – I just have to find them immediately, before Roomba gets the chance.
And as far as I’m concerned, the robot can take all the hair and lint it wants.
As long as Roomba stays on the floor and never tries to usurp my role as couch cuddler with Mom, we should be able to coexist.
That role, however, is one that I am not willing to share. Ever.