Telekinetic Dog

Once upon a time, there was a big important American General who was utterly convinced there was a way to walk through walls.

The only trouble was: he wasn’t very good at it.

Conversely, he was Chief of US intelligence.

According to the Daily Mail, people in his office at Arlington, Virginia, were not unaccustomed to watching their leader aim feistily at a wall, only to walk away with a bruised nose.

He was called Major General Albert Stubblebine III, and he was convinced that the next big thing in military warfare was the power of the mind.

“I still think it’s a great idea,”said General Stubblebine. “I simply kept bumping my nose. It’s a disappointment – just like levitation.”

Well, quite.

The power of the mind can do much: some even claim it can move things about a bit.

Psychokinesis is the concept that objects can be moved or changed – simply by concentrating mentally on them.

It is there at the outer reaches of the respectable world of psychology: the 2009 Oxford Dictionary of Psychology chooses to include it, along with its little sister telekinesis; and yet the majority of studies which have ever been carried out, a meta-study in 2006* found, only show a very tiny effect. And this, the authors of the study say, could be due to researchers talking up the positives because they knew their results would be published.

Remember that. A very, very tiny effect.

Time to whisk you away to my forest, somewhere on the outskirts of Windsor, where not one, but two dogs are taking their twice-daily constitutional at the moment.

Alongside Biohazard Bill, aka our resident family mutt Macaulay, we have the sleek speed machine that is my sister’s dog. Her name, for those uninitiated, is Clover.

And Clover is a bit strange.

She’s not so much one brick short of a load. That’s Macaulay’s job. Clover is more a one-brick-too-many kinda gal. She’s utterly, irrevocably driven.

Her life exists to fetch sticks. It’s not so much a pastime as a career. She approaches it like the chair of a city board, with attack, with rather too much eye contact, with plenty of liaison with whoever is holding the stick.

While other dogs her size and shape gambol, carefree, about the olfactorily pleasing forest floor; while they chase squirrels and deer and runners; why, Clover is a few feet ahead of the most powerful human, staring fixedly at them and intermittently placing a stick on their feet for reference and attention worthy of a Chief Executive’s inbox.

So there we were, trundling through the forest, and we arrived at the pond.

My husband loves to throw things into water. It’s elemental with him. And our dog doesn’t chase sticks, so Phil has never been able to throw a stick into a pond and get it back again. The dog just looks at him vacantly, and sits down to wait for the next family life event.

Maybe, thought Phil, Clover will chase her stick right to the centre of the pond. Possibly – probably, even – she will bring it back to me.

And so he swung the stick up and down and lobbed it right into that excalibur region of the lake. You know: the deep mysterious bit in the middle.

There was one important aspect of this career-dog’s preferences we didn’t even know: she hates swimming and appears to fear deep water.

But she is driven.

Oh, the anguish: the deep bereft focus of this sleek sheepdog as she stood in the shallows crying! It was as if there was an invisible string between her heart and the stick which floated, so inaccessible, so remote, out there over the depths.

The water snails were unsympathetic, mainly because Macaulay was having a stab at trying to catch and eat them. The wind was almost non-existent. And Clover stood in the shallows, yearning with all her heart and soul.

The kids dashed round to the other side of the lake. Maybe, they reasoned, they could make little waves and create momentum which would push the stick back towards the jaws which longed for it so.

It was a valiant effort but it did nothing to bring the stick closer.

But somehow – how, none of us could quite explain – the stick was moving towards her.

You couldn’t actually see it moving, you understand. You’d just watch and note, every so often, that the gap between the stick and the dog’s relentless stare had closed, imperceptibly.

And still the dog stared, and cried, and yearned, and the kids used sticks to paddle, and Phil commentated, and I heaped recriminations on Phil.

Finally, after about ten minutes, there were only two feet between the dog and the stick. Her eyes bored into it. She whimpered and tried to get closer, and got caught in mudbanks, but her eyes never wavered.

And then the gap was one foot, and half a foot and finally, she opened her jaws to claim the prize. She was overjoyed, and the dissonance of the last 15 minutes melted away in doggie jubilance.

Everyone cheered.

Let’s think back to that meta-study of 2006. The power of the mind could only be said to have a very tiny effect, it said, if any at all.

So: was this a very tiny effect?

Or none at all?


*Bösch, Holger; Fiona Steinkamp, Emil Boller (July 2006). “Examining psychokinesis: The interaction of human intention with random number generators–A meta-analysis”. Psychological Bulletin 132 (4): 497–523.


44 thoughts on “Telekinetic Dog

  1. You have done it again. Thought-provoking in the extreme, and a vividly entertaining mental image is created.

    The next thing to happen will doubtless be that you find yourselves floating through the air and deposited in front of a handy stick, which you are then impelled to hurl. Having a human doing the throwing is bound to be part of the whole entertainment, so simply moving the stick wouldn ‘t do.

  2. That hurt was supposed to be hurl. I really do get frustrated at the lack of a post-posting editing facility here. That ‘wouldn’t’ jumps out and hits me, too. When will I remember that with WP it is a one-take situation?

  3. Hi Kate! Thanks for the recent comment on my “52 fish pile-up” posting. I appreciate it. I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog and am adding it to my blogroll if you don’t mind!

    1. Cindy, thank you! That title on your picture had me creased up with laughter.What a lovely,surprising perspective. I ‘m looking forward to seeing more of your posts!

      1. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? No: I was gazing idly at ‘recent posts’ and found the post after the fish-pil-up-one; then I saw the title in the corner and clicked it 🙂

  4. I see someone has already mentioned it, but if you haven’t seen the George Clooney movie “Men Who Stare at Goats,” then you have really missed something. It is absolutely jaw-dropping to watch, especially when you discover that a large part of it is true.

    I believe the mind has powers far beyond what we have yet imagined; however, I get a bit concerned when we test some of our theories on a herd of goats and “killing them” with our minds. Surely there are other less deadly ways to achieve the same thing. And then there is the human tendency to always feel that just because they CAN do something, that means they SHOULD do it. Wrong, wrong, wrong! We are often far too stupid and short-sighted to use whatever intelligence we stumble upon.

    Clover and Mac are both my kinds of dogs! It can be so funny, entertaining and educational to watch how they – and most dogs and cats – manipulate their situations to their own advantage. . .and to realize that as the owner, you are the one who taught them, inadvertently, to do most of those same annoying things hat you wish they wouldn’t do!

    Children can be the same way. Zoë found out very early on that i she has a “cough” that she will get attention and a little pat on her back, or even be picked up. Every once in a while, when someone hasn’t “oohed and ahhed” over her for a while, you will hear this little fake “cough-cough” sound. When you turn to look at her she grins, and is obviously thinking, “What power I have at my command!”

    1. Must look up that film, Paula. I hope no goats were harmed in the filming…stage goats can be quite clever, though. I have visions of the animal trainer off camera making some gesture and the goat, for all the world like David Garrick, affecting a swoon. Animals and children can be Oscar-winners too!

    1. Mac’s been looking a little mealy mouthed since Clover’s arrival. He found a ball in the forest again and picked it up, brandishing it around to make Clover jealous when ordinarily he never touches toys. I think he’s feeling a little pale in comparison 🙂

  5. I believe that Clover used her mind to master matter.

    Red Rover
    Red Rover
    Come in . . . this is Clover
    Make that stick float over
    To me!

    And, yes, Men Who Stare At Goats ties in beautifully with this post. Odd and moving movie.

  6. You should watch the film; it’s excellent, rather like this post 🙂 I almost wept for poor Clover, and definitely cheered at the end.

    They say we use only a tiny percentage of our brains, so perhaps telekinesis will be possible sometime in the future. Far distant future, I’m thinking, if my behaviour this morning is anything to go by.

    1. 😀 I’m the same, Tilly: I have trouble using the percentage of my brain that’s commonly in use, let alone the rest of it.
      My wedding anniversary today: out for an Italian and the back home, I think, for a spot of ‘Men Who Stare At Goats’.

  7. Well Kate, maybe telekinesis wasn’t able to do much, but the power of that dog to make humans do something for her has to be admired.
    My guess is that the kids’ efforts were what gradually impelled that stick to the side.
    Well done Maddie and Felix.
    Great post kate.

    Love Dad

  8. Splendid!

    What an apt name for a man who walks boldly into walls. Stubblebine I keep wanting to read Stumblebine. I was giggling and then, there you went with this:

    “And so he swung the stick up and down and lobbed it right into that excalibur region of the lake. You know: the deep mysterious bit in the middle.”

    Loved it, and poor Clover, so intent that yes, indeed, I do believe she willed the stick closer and closer, with a little help from her young friends. Is Phil feeling properly remorseful?

  9. I’m glad you dropped by my humble blog, Kate, because I was able to discover your great blog! I’m looking forward to reading more of your thought-provoking posts! 🙂

  10. Stunning story, Kate! I bet it was telekinesis, although I’ve never seen Quest achieve such a thing 😀 Still, I whole-heartedly believe we underestimate animals.

    P.S.Thanks for your lovely comment on my last post & sorry I lost it, due to restoring a back-up version of the blog to fix a bug, which didn’t work 😦 Hopefully I’ll get it right soon…

    1. Not a problem: once you’ve seen it thats what matters. Naomi, it’s an exciting direction your blog is taking now and I confess to hanging on every word. See you at part two!

  11. What a fun read! I really felt for poor Clover, though I doubt it was telekinesis which brought the stick to her, more likely just sublte currents in the mysterious lake. Or perhaps there was a sympathetic Lady who helped it along its way?

  12. It’s amazing the concentration dogs can have. I knew a Jack Russell Terrier that was obsessed with fetching rocks- he stared people down until they threw rocks for him to fetch and then dashed madly after them. He hauled rocks several times his size back to the person who threw them. I’m convinced that all dogs have superpowers!

    1. They do, Zoe! You remind me of our old family dog who used to sit next to the wire fence watching our neighbours intently, every Sunday lunchtime, until the scraps from their Sunday roast came over the fence for him. One day they were going to do lasagne and then saw the stare and changed to roast chicken…

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