Bad Astronomy

Having a ball on Caturday

Today is Caturday, expanded in these parts to include all animals, things animal-like, and pretty much whatever I want it to mean.

Including dogs. My brother-in-law Chris is a photographer, and snapped this funny picture of my pseudonymous dog Canis Minor just as she was about to do one of her favorite things in the whole world: catch a ball.

I love my dogs. They’re friendly, smart, quirky, and loving themselves. But it’s pictures like this that remind me that while we may have domesticated them (really, domesticated each other), there remains some of that fierceness of their pack hunting past in them.

I was in a conversation recently about how smart dogs are, and whether they are self-aware. It was an interesting topic, and it centered on humor; it seems logical that to have humor you must be self-aware. Do other animals besides us have senses of humor? Dolphins?

Maybe dogs don’t (they can’t pass the mirror test, apparently*), but they sure know how to have fun. Check out the next picture Chris took of Canis Minor if you’re not sure.

I’ll note that when she was a puppy she couldn’t catch a ball if her life depended on it. Then suddenly, one day, boom! She never missed. It’s amazing to watch a ball take a bad hop when I throw it, spinning it off in a near-random direction, but she still manages to catch it even when running alongside it. Dogs have astonishing reflexes.

* Just the other day, though, my other dog was looking at me in the mirror as I talked to her. The sound of my voice was clearly coming from behind her, but she was looking forward, at my reflection in the mirror as I spoke – when I stopped talking, she turned her head away from the mirror and looked directly at me. She may not pass the mirror test for her own reflection, but it really looked like she was aware she was looking at my reflection. I can’t be sure, of course, which is why scientists like to test these things carefully.

Related posts:

- CatIRday
- Caturday rib licking
- Canis Minor shoots for the sky
- The price of freedom