A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Weird Cockador Behavior

Although I love my dog and she seems to have her own little personality, I know that she's actually just a robot with a fur coat. An eating machine programmed to give sad puppy looks whenever any of her senses tells her that food is being prepared. A fairly simple mechanism configured to live for treats, rides, walks, belly rubs, and games of hide-the-bone.

Tazzy has learned many tricks, although it's transparently obvious she only works for treats. Amir has taught her to speak on command, and I'm trying to teach her to bark whenever her dish is empty (and at the same time improve her command of French). So far, she'll bark when I ask her, "Qu'est-ce qu'on dit quand il n'y a plus de bouffe?" She doesn't often initiate the request yet, however.

Amir was playing with her a couple of days ago, and he noticed something odd. She can only bark when all four paws are on the ground. Whenever he held her front paws, she'd appear to be trying to bark, but no sound would come out. After repeated exhortations to speak, she would become frustrated and try to twist away. As soon as her front paws hit the floor, she'd bark wildly.

I used to notice some similarly quirky behavior in my Old English sheepdog. For one thing, he seemed unable to cross a room on the diagonal. When heading for his dish in the opposite corner of the kitchen, he'd have to go at it by right angles.

One of our favorite games was hide and seek. When he'd hear me calling from another room, he'd come running, getting increasingly whipped up as the location of the sound changed. One reason I could fool him was that whenever he got to a doorway, he'd look only to the right. If I flattened myself against the wall to the left of the doorway, he wouldn't notice me, and he'd turn away. I'd call him again and he'd rush back, but again only look to the right. What was up with that?

I'm not sure if these instances of bad code are in every model, or just in these free ones I got. But definitely even the best dog is not as robust and feature-rich as the average human. Still, I have a feeling that if I paid attention, I would observe similarly weird characteristics in my own behavior.



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