One way to understand a really big problem is to break it down into more manageable parts. That’s why scientists use specific, smaller systems to help them grasp the overall health of the planet. The Arctic, for example, is regarded as a bellwether for the catastrophes of climate change that will soon afflict us all, thanks to its temperatures that are rising faster than those in any other region on Earth. There’s also the escalating loss of glacier ice around the world. Or this week’s “heat attack,” which will basically force residents of the American Southwest to go hide deep underground in caves or risk perishing in temperatures predicted to climb past 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
But since long before the famous hockey stick graph, scientists have also secretly relied on another, much more ancient analog to skry the hot ’n’ doomy future: The dogmometer.
The dogmometer is an accurate indicator of ambient air temperature, gradating from “so cold I have reduced my body to the size of a fist and buried my face in my own butt” to “all the other dog owners buy kiddie pools when it’s this hot, you asshat” and “OK I’m basically dead of hotness I will never move again not even for treats.” But its readings are more precise than a regular thermometer’s, because they also incorporate a dog’s uncanny ability to pick up on ambient vibes to put those temperatures in local, regional, and even global ecological and geopolitical context.
Even better, you don’t need some fancy degree to read a dogmometer. And you’d better learn, because with Trump in the Whitehouse, U.S. government funding for climate change research is bound to plunge. Here, let’s go through some examples.
This dogmometer, which I purchased second-hand in rural Colorado about 7 years ago, shows some basic principles. Heat can be gauged by the degree of extension, and whether the body is pointing up or down, and at what angle. Here, you can tell by the dogmometer’s full stretch that it’s pretty hot, but the positioning on the couch means it’s not so hot that she has to move to the much cooler wooden floor. That’d put it at 82.3 degrees Fahrenheit in the house. The mildly nonplussed expression on her face is another clue: It indicates that Pride Week has just ended in Portland, and everyone is hung over and upset to be back at work instead of having brunch. The reading on this dogmometer is very similar to the one that subtly clued Al Gore in to the fact that Earth was beginning to plunge into climate chaos.
The full extension of this dogmometer in some cool, moist grass indicates an air temperature of 95.38 degrees. The dog’s lack of motivation to retrieve a ball that is mere feet way perfectly sums up the existential crisis that pervades the Anthropocene.
This dogmometer tried to migrate to a more hospitable habitat as conditions in its native habitat grew too hot and dry to be bearable, but it was blocked by an arbitrary border wall and collapsed.
This dogmometer tells us that the temperature in usually-cool British Columbia a couple summers ago was “Mexico.”
These three dogmometers give identical temperature readings of 89.7 degrees, and identical readings of low-grade-ennui reflecting the Brexit and the increasing prevalence of zoonotic disease.
This is an unrelated movie of a dog barking at a feather.
This dogmometer is a head of the others, with full sand submersion indicating an ambient air temperature of 137.6 degrees. Those people looking all casual in the background have actually been flash-mummified by the sudden onset heat.
Some models, meanwhile, are specifically calibrated to predict the apocalypse.
This one, for example, clearly shows that it’s 109.3 degrees and that we were f*ed even when the Unites States was still a part of the Paris Climate Accords, and oh, by the way, North Korea has The Bomb.
And this one is a literal doomsday clock, with the hour hand nearly at midnight, and the minute hand pointing to the snowflakes that YOU WILL NEVER SEE AGAIN.
…never have you so wanted to touch something that tells you unequivocally that you will die in an inferno. I mean, just look at that little doomsaying belly.
With thanks, in order of appearance, to Willi Moore, Victoria Russell, Morgan Heim, Cobun Keegan, Theo Barnart, Elizabeth Robertson, Celka van Dijk, Jerrod Fast, Rose Rosello, Sarah Koenigsberg, Farland Fish, and Adriane Panciera for providing their dogmometer readings. Thanks also to everyone who sent pics I didn’t have room for.