The Telekenetic 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.”

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 were walking with the Shrewsday Clan.

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

And Clover is a bit strange.

While other dogs her size and shape gambol, carefree, about the olfactorily pleasing forest floor; while they chase squirrels and deer and runners; 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.

And Phil swung a 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 Clover’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?

A repost for a wintry February Friday….

*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.


47 thoughts on “The Telekenetic Dog

  1. I remember going a bit goose-bumpy when I first read this one.
    This time round, I find myself wondering how many effects we actually do experience, but dismiss with some sort of auto-rationality mechanism?

    1. I think you have hit on something there, Col. I do think we dismiss anything which does not fit our perceptions. I love the way Terry Pratchett handles that when Death comes to visit.

  2. I’ve seen similar work done by Trigger, our daughter’s insane poodle, and his best friend Baballe ( a rubber ball with a face on it ). Put Baballe in the middle of the swimming pool and Trigger will lure the ball to his jaws as surely as any Siren of antiquity. Strangely enough, it works in the opposite way for me. The more I yearn for something, the more inaccessible it becomes.

    1. Ah, we’re in Shakti Gawain territory here, aren’t we, Roger? Trigger is just astonishingly good at creative visualisation. Me: I’m less so. Or maybe I just don’t want things enough.

  3. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to be able to do that. Perhaps we just don’t put our minds to it seriously enough. Ancient Hawaiians believed in that power. After many years of training in the art of Huna, trainees were put to the task of moving rocks with their minds. It was their final test before becoming powerful kahuna.

  4. Wonderful 🙂 I think if Gwynn ever develops that kind of intense focus, we’ll either find our kitchen counters imperceptibly lowering (until one day they are at doggy-eye-level, without our having noticed that we now chop chicken while sitting cross-legged), or the bacon will start to fall on the floor at an unusually high rate.

  5. Looper, starring Bruce Willis, recently released on DVD, contains both Time Travel and Telekenesis on a powerful scale.

    Like this post it makes one pause to explore the possibilities of untapped potential.

  6. In the future border collies will lounge by the side of the sheep pen and simply corral them by their intense stares. Farmers put up signs on their property that read, “Beware the floating sheep. They do that sometimes.”


  7. I loved the movie, “Men Who Stare at Goats” and had absolutely no idea the story was based on a real person/events. I’m amazed. Clover has something to teach us, I think. What an incredible story. My imagination has now gone wild! 🙂

  8. Clover obviously has some hidden talents. It seems that all animals have abilities that us mere humans don’t get. Like when dogs and cats know you’re coming home about 10 minutes before you actually arrive. If they can do that, maybe it doesn’t seem so far-fetched that they’d be able to draw sticks to them? Although my beloved Kitty Emeritus tried unsuccessfully to bring sunbeams to her—she’d lie in a patch of sun, and when it moved, she’d pat at it with her paw to try to bring it back.

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