Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Dog days

Yesterday, we found out that the president of the United States ordered his lawyer to commit perjury before Congress, and has taken his "Oh, yeah, well you're a great big poopyhead!" style of interaction to new levels with revealing the details of a (formerly) secure visit to the troops in Afghanistan by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, presumably to get back at her for denying him the opportunity to deliver his State of the Union speech.

Oh, and there's another "caravan" on the way.  And Ivanka Trump has been tapped to help select the next leader of the World Bank.

*looks around desperately for something, anything, else to think about*

Okay, folks, today we're going to consider: why have sightings of "dogmen" been on the rise lately?

Yesterday we considered eyewitness accounts of seeing pterodactyl-like flying creatures, which is weird enough.  But now we're having to contend with scary visitations by bipedal canines.

As if the quadrupedal kind weren't enough trouble.  Our rescue dog, Guinness, is a truly wonderful guy, but his nickname of "El Destructo" is well earned.  In the past two weeks, he's chewed up a bottle of red ceramic underglaze, a visitor's shoe, a magazine, a pillow, and a single piece from a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle.  About the latter, I'd almost have preferred if he'd eaten the whole puzzle; having one piece gnawed is just maddening.

Oh, and he swiped a chunk of gourmet cheese off the counter and ate the entire thing.

Do NOT let this innocent expression fool you.

So the idea that there might be intelligent bipedal dogs, perhaps even with opposable thumbs, is kind of alarming.  But that's just what people have been seeing.

Starting with an anonymous (of course) eyewitness in northern Arkansas, who two months ago saw a fearsome doglike creature while driving home from his job as a roofing worker.

"I came across this evil-looking wolf creature," he said.  "It was carrying something in its hands, like a leash or a rope.  It was standing on two feet on the left side of the road.  It was gray, maybe seven feet tall, three hundred pounds."

That, in the words of a friend of mine, is "a big bow-wow."

Then there's the guy in Colorado who was driving home with his own dog, and saw Fido's scary cousin.  He'd stopped the car and let his dog out to pee, but evidently that was the last thing on her mind.  "She wouldn’t do her business," he said.  "She started barking.  At first I thought she was barking at the traffic, but there was no traffic."

The fact that he even considered the explanation that she was barking at traffic that wasn't there makes me wonder about his reliability as a witness, but let's hear the rest of his testimony.

"I noticed five lights hovering in the sky in the distance...  I quickly put the dog in the car and went to investigate.  The lights rose higher and then got smaller and zigzagged, then vanished."

This did not calm his dog down, and in fact, she seemed even more scared than before.  Then...

"I tried comforting her, and that’s when I noticed something moving in the corner of my eye.  I looked up and saw something running behind my car, through the taillights... It had red fur and a tail, but it also had a human face...  It's hard to describe."

Understandably, the guy hauled ass back out onto the road, but he adds that his dog was still terrified when they arrived home, and he had nightmares for several nights thereafter.

There were other sightings in the last couple of months in Michigan and California, the latter by a retired Air Force security officer who was in a park with her daughter and saw "a large male dogman," six-and-a-half to seven feet tall, with broad shoulders, a narrow waist, long arms, dog-like legs, a tail, and amber eyes.  She pulled a gun on it, and started speaking to the thing in her native language (she is Shoshone), and that stopped it from advancing on them.  She and her daughter hightailed it back to their car, and got home safely.  She decided to return the next day with her husband, and see if she could find more evidence (or possibly see it again), and there was no certain trace of the dogman, but they did find a cat skeleton "stripped clean down to the bones."

Skeptic though I am, if I'd seen something like that, I don't think you could pay me enough to return to the same spot.  So major props to her for doing this, and I'm glad that the Shoshone-speaking cat-eating dogman of California didn't harm any of them.

But as far as our initial question -- to wit, why there have been more sightings of dogmen lately -- the only thing I can come up with is that the dogmen have decided we humans had our shot at running the world, but we've fucked things up so royally that they're going to take matters into their own, um, paws.  Maybe they'll team up with yesterday's pterodactyls to form a really New World Order.  Myself, I say let 'em.  Can't be any worse than what we have now.

Of course, if the dogmen are anything like Guinness, they will stubbornly refuse to even consider running the government until you throw the ball for them 459 times, and follow it up by saying "whoozagooboy?" and giving them a dog cookie.

So that's today's cryptozoological news.  And now, sad to say, I've dithered around long enough, and I should probably gird my loins and check the news.  Who knows what might have happened in my absence?  Maybe Donald Trump threw a mud pie at Nancy Pelosi.  Maybe Mitch McConnell finally decided that his title of "Senate Majority Leader" means he should actually lead the Senate.  Maybe Ivanka Trump will be appointed to replace Sarah Huckabee Sanders as White House Spokesperson, given that Sanders is allegedly resigning, probably because she's used up her quota of egregious lies, so now has no option other than telling the truth.

And we can't have that.

But in any case, be on the lookout for dogmen, but play it safe.  A seven-foot-tall, three-hundred-pound dog could do a lot of damage to shoes and jigsaw puzzles.


This week's Skeptophilia book recommendation is a little on the dark side.

The Radium Girls, by Kate Moore, tells the story of how the element radium -- discovered in 1898 by Pierre and Marie Curie -- went from being the early 20th century's miracle cure, put in everything from jockstraps to toothpaste, to being recognized as a deadly poison and carcinogen.  At first, it was innocent enough, if scarily unscientific.  The stuff gives off a beautiful greenish glow in the dark; how could that be dangerous?  But then the girls who worked in the factories of Radium Luminous Materials Corporation, which processed most of the radium-laced paints and dyes that were used not only in the crazy commodities I mentioned but in glow-in-the-dark clock and watch dials, started falling ill.  Their hair fell out, their bones ached... and they died.

But capitalism being what it is, the owners of the company couldn't, or wouldn't, consider the possibility that their precious element was what was causing the problem.  It didn't help that the girls themselves were mostly poor, not to mention the fact that back then, women's voices were routinely ignored in just about every realm.  Eventually it was stopped, and radium only processed by people using significant protective equipment,  but only after the deaths of hundreds of young women.

The story is fascinating and horrifying.  Moore's prose is captivating -- and if you don't feel enraged while you're reading it, you have a heart of stone.

[If you purchase the book from Amazon using the image/link below, part of the proceeds goes to supporting Skeptophilia!]

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