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Pluto's Advantage? Not Being Goofy

Pluto and Goofy in a display at the World Disney store in New York City. i i

Disney characters Pluto (left) and Goofy (clothed) at the World Disney store in New York City. Trish Lease/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Trish Lease/Getty Images
Pluto and Goofy in a display at the World Disney store in New York City.

Disney characters Pluto (left) and Goofy (clothed) at the World Disney store in New York City.

Trish Lease/Getty Images

I watched a little television with our daughters a few days ago and have been struggling with a question all week.

Goofy and Pluto are both dogs. Yet Pluto walks on all fours, runs around naked and can only bark at the world.

Goofy walks on two feet, wears clothing and has the power of speech — albeit, mostly to say "goofy" things. Maybe that's why I identify with him.

So why is it that Pluto is a dog who must live as a dog, and Goofy is a dog who gets to live like a human being?

When Pluto is hungry, he has to beg — jump up and down and flap his slobbery, rubbery pink tongue like a flag on a windy day, and hope that Mickey will finally read his subtle signals and say, "Hey, boy, want some food?"

I won't even dignify that term, "boy."

Pluto just gets dog food in his bowl, whereas Goofy can ask for Oysters Rockefeller and a fine Sancerre.

So I posed the question on Facebook and Twitter, and got some interesting responses.

Quite a few people, like dsg, observed, "You've interviewed a lot of Goofies who walk and talk. Not a sure sign of superior intellect."

Petersw wondered, "A coincidence that Pluto the (former) planet got a demotion as well? If they had named it 'Goofy' it might still be one!"

And grovesporf observed, "But Pluto is far more intelligent than Goofy. Maybe Pluto prefers to live as a dog."

And that made me recognize something. Reflexively, I had posed the question of why Pluto lives as a dog and Goofy as a man in late 20th century, Age of Aquarius, "All We Are Saying Is Give Pluto a Chance" terms.

But maybe Pluto chooses dogdom.

We may think his prospects in life seem smaller: just scratching, sniffing, being scratched, being sniffed, begging and eating.

But Pluto doesn't have to fret about finding a job, the value of his pension fund, putting his puppies through Stanford, staying on hold for 45 minutes with Verizon, Tivo, Blue Cross, Visa or United, fine lines and wrinkles around his eyes, or updating from Windows XP to Windows Vista.

And getting a mobile phone that's outdated by the time you've chosen a ringtone.

I had assumed that Pluto was to be pitied. Now I notice how comfortable he seems on four feet. Maybe he's relieved that he doesn't have so many e-mails piling up to read, much less return, bills to pay, and a dozen different passwords and PIN numbers to remember.

All the sorts of things that can make people Goofy.

I don't envy Pluto. But when I watch him with my daughters now he reminds me: There's more than one road to happiness.

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small