Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Hang Up and Catch the Ball!
This article in last Sunday's New York Times discussed the rise in self-inflicted injuries caused by people who walk while talking on the phone. They fall off curbs, walk in front of oncoming cars, collide with parked cars, telephone poles, or street signs—often seriously enough to require medical care. The number of incidents ending in visits to the emergency room doubled in one year, according to the article. The reporter, Matt Richtel, explains: "Sometimes, pedestrians using their phones do not notice objects or people right in front of them—even a clown riding a unicycle." He then tells about a recent study that tested people's awareness of a clown riding a unicycle down the street. Half the people walking without phones noticed it. Only a quarter of those on phones did.
The part that interested me, though, was a comment by a California neuroscientist about the effect of use of phones on the human brain. Phones allow us to "pursue goals that feel more important than walking down the street." The article continues with the doctor's next point: "'An animal would never walk into a pole," he said, noting survival instincts would trump other priorities."
The dog owners I talked to about this rolled their eyes. Perhaps a wolf or a lion or an elephant is focused enough on its objectives—i.e., walking and surviving—to avoid colliding with trees or street signs. But most dogs I know have had many blooper reel moments while chasing a fast moving object instead of watching where they were going. My Muzzy routinely ends up clattering over or into the dog bowl in our back yard while chasing one of my poorly executed throws. Or she ends up in the rosemary bush, which, like Charlie Brown's kite-eating tree, seems to suck the ball out of the air no matter how carefully I aim it. I'm sure that if the writer of the NYT article had called local veterinary clinics, he would have discovered some significant statistics of doggie collisions while ball-chasing. So, which is more important? The spectacular catch or eyes on the road? I think how you answer that question will say a lot about your dog's personality—and your own.