Cricket takes her sniffing seriously. Some dogs sniff the air, sniff a few potential pee spots, and feel satisfied with that, but Cricket has to do a grid search. She seems to have the backyard broken down into plots, invisible to the human eye. Her brain keeps track of where she smelled what, and in which combinations or concentrations. She chooses only a few zones to check during each walk so that she can do a thorough survey of the territory throughout the day. I’m sure if I were more observant, I would discover that after certain weather events, and at certain times of day, she checks specific areas of the backyard.
I am not a scientist. The idea of taking a chemistry class makes me want to vomit. But for Cricket, this sniffing science is nirvana. She has a lot of projects going at once. She has to check how the scent of her own pee decays as the hours pass, and then see how long the trace of squirrel scent lives on the base of the big tree, and then she has to see whose been pooping in her leaf pile – but that’s not so much an experiment as a territorial guarding maneuver. No one should be pooping on her leaf pile, except for her.
She also likes to check in on the plantings our neighbor has put into the plot by the front door. She’s sure he’s made mistakes in his watering times, and soil usage, and the distance between seedlings, and she tries to get her paws into the dirt to rearrange things to her specifications.
Cricket guards her knowledge closely and only shares a few tidbits with her sister Butterfly, and none with me. I think she whispers her findings to Grandma at night, but I can’t prove it, especially because Grandma sleeps through the recitation. Though maybe that’s where Grandma’s been getting all of her new gardening ideas.
Cricket tries to be disinterested in her sniffing. She covers each area equally and gives me the evil eye when I try to speed her past one location to another without allowing full computation of data values. But some things break through her scientific objectivity. Like a dead mouse. She doesn’t just want to smell the mouse and record its notes of moss and rot and ripe just-dead-ness, she wants to absorb those elements into her own skin, by rolling her head and neck into the carcass.
Science is supposed to be so orderly and logical and impersonal, to guard against subjectivity and assumptions that could spoil the accuracy of the results, but I’m pretty sure Cricket isn’t the only scientist who breaks out into a passion of excitement every once in a while.
I’d like to get Cricket a Go-Pro camera to strap to her head, with smell-o-vision and a good microphone to capture ambient sound. I think, if we could create a set up like that, we could re-play her walk videos for her whenever we have to go out and she’d be so busy studying her science projects she wouldn’t even notice that we were gone.
Or we could set up a lab for her in the big closet in the living room (sorry Mom, you’ll have to move your quilting stuff out of there), and there’d be Petri dishes on all of the lower shelves so she could check in with her smells whenever she wanted. We could have a shelf for types of tree bark, and a shelf for creepy crawlies, and a shelf for clumps of grass peed on by various animals at different times of the day.
Maybe Butterfly could have a small shelf in the closet where she could press a button and listen to the birdsong of one or another of her friends while acting as Cricket’s lab assistant.
I think Cricket might even be willing to learn how to climb the plastic doggy steps if it meant getting closer to her experiments on the higher shelves. She could also use a microscope, and a bright bulb to wear on her forehead for nighttime investigations, and that white lab coat; and if we could find Dog-to-English word recognition software that could translate all of her observations and insights for publication… Clearly, I have been remiss all of these years. If only I had been more proactive, Cricket would already have her PhD.