Monday, January 8, 2007

Dangers and my dog

On cold damp mornings like today, I'm always amused by Sophia's behavior. She has to make a choice between staying outside in front of the house, where her paws are likely to get wet by raindrops, or remaining on the warm kitchen floor. We humans see this choice solely as a matter of bodily comfort, and so does Sophia to a certain extent. But the huge advantage of staying out in the cold is that Sophia is in direct contact with the universe. From her vantage point in front of the stone wall of the house, Sophia can look out over the valley, towards the slopes and cliffs. In this position, she can instantly detect events such as the return of Hannibal's troops and their elephants from the Italian Alps, or the landing of Martians on the Vercors plateau. Sophia realizes that, inside the kitchen, these happenings could occur and she might not notice them fast enough to take action. Outside, her smell and vision are unimpaired, and Sophia can start barking and spring into action as soon as she detects a danger. So, the cold raindrops really don't matter all that much.

Sophia has never forgotten a terrible wintry evening, a year or so ago, when the Master (that's me) happened to be sitting in front of a log fire and watching a TV show about dinosaurs. As soon as Sophia started to become alarmed by the weird beastly noises filling the living room, I tried to calm her down by explaining that everything was purely virtual, but my dog appeared to disagree with me. She was convinced that there were herds of terrible creatures storming through the valley in the direction of our house, and she barked madly until I opened the door and let her race out into the cold dark night. But a rapid circumnavigation of the house confirmed Sophia's worst fears. The beasts were surely already inside our dwelling, because she could still clearly hear their howls. So, she carried on barking, and I had to take control of the situation by turning off the TV.

Now, did Sophia realize that I had succeeded in eliminating a herd of dinosaurs at the flick of a switch, merely by using my zapper? Of course not. On the contrary, she was convinced that her barking tour of the house had been sufficiently threatening to frighten away the awesome invaders. Basically, as Sophia later explained to me, dinosaurs are cowards. But one must remain constantly vigilant, even on cold damp mornings like today.

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