Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Walking the Dog

Two quick dog stories, sort of.

So I'm out walking the dog the other night, when a flicker out the corner of my eye draws my attention to Orion's Belt. And I am just in time to see the three stars of Orion's Belt peel off to the right and zoom across the sky. And I'm thinking, "That can't be good!" Because I'm pretty sure we have been tracking those three stars in particular for about 5,000 years. Another star gets up and moves, maybe it was a piece of space junk or just a passing plane, not a star at all, so no biggie. Or even if there was an object that we had thought a star but turns out to be an alien observation station, if it decided it was time to leave, well, maybe they were hoping we wouldn't notice and maybe we wouldn't so much. But I can pretty much say that if the aliens running the three stars of Orion's Belt decided it was time to go, and they go off in formation like this, that really can't be good.

Then, of course, I eventually worked out -- say 20 seconds later -- that they haven't moved at all, and that I have been tricked by the 'moving train on the other track illusion' -- that is, Orion's belt has stayed safely stationary, but the two other stars in the background against which I had been tracking their motion turned out to be two planes travelling in parallel have an arc apart. But the illusion was a very powerful and convincing one, right up until the planes moved to far out of the field to maintain the illusion. And for the record, 20 seconds is a very long time when you think you're watching the end of the world....

In a completely unrelated incident, my dog has been driving me crazy, barking in the backyard. Mostly she is a quiet, calm, wonderful dog, but whenever the neighbour behind us lets her dog out into her backyard, Jackie goes berserk trying to break through the fence to kill it. The neighbour's dog is the size of my hand, so no threat to Jackie, but either she doesn't know that (it's a solid fence with no eye holes); or she's seen the dog and mistaken it for a barking rabbit. Whatever the case, Jackie's barking is enough to wake the entire neighbourhood so Mary and I will go out onto the deck and call Jackie in. Jackie rushes back for Mary, but studiously ignores my shouts for her to "come!"

On one recent occasion, I was at the back door when Jackie started up, my shoes were upstairs at the front door, the backyard was under three feet of snow, and it irked me that Jackie would come for Mary and not me, so I might have allowed the tiniest bit of an edge into my voice as I shouted "Jackie!" repeatedly. Louder and angrier, "Jackie! Jackie!, For God Sakes, Jackie!" After about 5 minutes of this, the neighbour had retrieved her dog, Jackie had stopped barking, but was still refusing to acknowledge me, merely sniffing along the fence for the spoor of the hated dograbbit. "Jackie! Jackie!" I continued shouting, in what I might in hindsight now confess to be slightly shrill tones. When a peeved voice a couple of houses down answers, "What? What already?!" And it occurs to be in one illuminated moment that (a) The neighbour two houses down on the other side of the lane is named "Jackie"; and (b) I have not had occasion to introduce her to our new dog, "Jackie".

Oops. So now I am careful to shout "Come! Here girl! Good Doggie!" rather than my dog's name when yelling into the back yard. Or, you know, saying, "Hey, Mary, the dog's barking in the back yard again! You'd better go call her in..."

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