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The Sniffing Science

 

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.

Cricket follows the sniff trail wherever it takes her.

Cricket follows the sniff trail wherever it takes her.

In any weather.

In any weather.

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.

Mushrooms!!!

Mushrooms!!!

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.

Does this dog look happy about wearing a camera? (not my picture)

Does this dog look happy about wearing a camera? (not my picture)

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.

Creepy crawly caterpillar for Cricket's collection

Creepy crawly caterpillar for Cricket’s collection

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.

Cricket and her loyal assistant.

Cricket and her loyal assistant.

Butterfly's birdie friend

Butterfly’s birdie friend

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.

 

Cricket's first step

Dr. Cricket’s first step

 

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

78 responses »

  1. I had to laugh about Cricket wanting to rearrange the neighbor’s garden to her specifications. When my sweet (now departed) Daisy was a puppy, I watched her in our backyard throwing around some strange green toy. Upon further investigation, Daisy had yanked up all my newly planted herbs and was playing with them. Obviously, I knew nothing about planting a garden.

    Reply
    • The other night, my mom started pulling weeds along the walkway and Cricket thought she should help. She grabbed a huge clump of pulled weeds and shook the dirt onto Butterfly and herself and then dragged her prize away and tossed it around. She was very proud of herself for her contribution.

      Reply
  2. nice shots again, but I cordially dislike house pet cams…
    a nice sunday…

    Reply
    • I think Cricket would agree with you. I’m pretty sure the expensive camera would be bashed against the floor, the wall, the kitchen tile, and anything else necessary to make her point.

      Reply
  3. Rachel, Cricket sounds like a very thorough scientist! I agree, it ouldequated be wonderful to know what all goes on in our dogs’ noses. It’s evident to me that when I’m out with Charlie for a “walk,” it’s only me who thinks that’s what we’re doing. 🙂 Great post!

    Reply
    • When Cricket starts to scratch my arm and cry, I assume she has to go outside to “use the bathroom” and she refuses to correct me, until we get outside and she starts her grid search. She may deign to pee eventually, but it’s pretty much her lowest priority.

      Reply
  4. I meant to say “it would be wonderful” — darn auto-correct!

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  5. You have such wonderful insight!

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  6. Love your descriptions! But she’s only checking her peemail!

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  7. We’re three females here (four if you count Kismet, the parrot). It wasn’t by design, it just happened-in Kismet’s case, she got a gender-neutral name and it was going to take 3 years to find out without a DNA test-but nobody here cared. Yes, we mark on top of the other’s pee. Everyone thinks it is only a male thing, but it’s not. We’re into pee mail big time.

    Reply
  8. Lots of pee over pee around here. Gender neutrality. Lol. Love the descriptions.

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  9. I admire Cricket’s determination to sniff! In any weather, too 🙂

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  10. Your post has me imagining something like a web cam, only it would sample the odors in certain important spots outdoors and somehow bring them inside for Cricket to monitor.

    Gabi is both a marker and a sniffer – walks are interminable, but she’s so clearly engaged in something Critically Important that I hate to rush her. And yes, with three girl dogs here, we have regular tag peeing events. I think they deliberately hold some back so they can get the last word.

    Reply
  11. There is literally too much cuteness here for me to handle! Little wild beast! haha 🙂

    Reply
  12. Oh, Rachel, this made me laugh. As I was reading your descriptions, I was replacing Cricket and Butterfly with Emmy and Pippin. I guess it’s more prevalent than we ever could have imagined! 😀

    Reply
  13. Hi — I tried to leave a comment a minute ago and wordpress didn’t like it! I’ll try again:
    Rachel, this post is wonderful — it’s my favorite Cricket story so far!

    Reply
  14. I hereby award Cricket with an honorary (pretend) Ph.D. from the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University. Hope that she will check us out at: http://doglab.yale.edu
    She is certainly a dog worthy of cognitive study!

    Reply
  15. Lol, when I return home the first thing my Bianca does is thoroughly sniff me. Sometimes, i encounter neighbors and their dogs and of course I pet them. Those days she will smell I have pet another dog and would not greet me. She turns tail and walks away. I have to call her and pick her up and tell her she is the best dog before she looses her offended attitude.

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  16. Just love it!!!! Cricket, I mean Dr. Cricket…And the rolling on decomposing stuff…Why do our doggies LOVE to do that?! Graduate with honors Cricket!!!!

    Reply
  17. hello rachel its dennis the vizsla dog hay nuthing is better then a gud sniff!!! and no that dog duz not luk happy but then agin neether wood i be happy to be ternd into dogcuteus of borg!!! ha ha ok bye

    Reply
  18. We love to watch Maggie in motion. She has a brilliant nose, persistent too, and won’t give up until she’s flushed that rabbit/pheasant/partridge. It’s amazing how much ground she covers in such an organized and precise way.
    As for the pee-ing bit, dogs are really funny. Our friend’s bitch would pee, then Maggie and they’d continue to take it in turns on more or less the same leaf. Must be a territorial thing or I can pee more than you can, NO YOU CAN’T, Yes I can, NO YOU CAN’T, Yes I can, yes I can!! (music Maestro please!)
    Great post again Rachel.

    Reply
  19. “Grid search!” Fantastic. My dog fancies rolling in cat poo. Quite upsetting. Peace and sniffs, John

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  20. Our friend Mollie, a blue lurcher, likes to check out everyone else’s pee to make sure it’s legal – she’s like a little blue police dog!
    We can’t wait for the day when Dog-o-English software is patented. Whoever does it will be a millionaire overnight.

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    • I’m hoping my nephews will work on the software for me. But they have a dog, some fish, a lizard, a guinea pig and a rabbit, at least, so the languages might get a bit confused.

      Reply
  21. I have often wondered what goes through their minds when they sniff like that. Some things in the forest require all dogs to sniff at the same time while some things are just worthy of a one-dog-sniff. If we don’t hike back there for a day or two, the sniffing is intense and our hike a little more drawn out. Great post. Dr.Cricket, indeed!

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  22. I love watching Jack sit in the middle of the room with his nose up in the air; his tiny nose visibly vibrating and searching, sending out the olfactory signals waiting for a ping and then he pounces on a crumb. It is too funny and very cute.

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  23. Rachael, this is fabulous writing, Have you published your fiction? Titles ? Are you interested in being a beta reader for my newest novella?

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  24. Reblogged this on Love to Live and commented:
    Rachel’s thoughts on Cricket. Lovely

    Reply
  25. What a nice post, lovely to read !

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  26. My dog Isabelle is a sniffer too. She takes walks with nose to the ground. We always say she’s checking the pee-mail.

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  27. Well I suppose a lab coat and clipboard would also be in order huh lol 🙂

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  28. Cricket has fantastic taste in books. Our personal libraries have many books in common:)

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  29. I’ve nominated YOU for a Liebster Award! Please see my site for the details. I really do enjoy reading your blog posts and always look forward to seeing what you have to say — and I think that makes you worthy of this blogging award!

    Reply
  30. exiledprospero

    I had to laugh at doing a ‘grid search.’ … And chemistry wasn’t my favorite subject either–as alchemy, though far older, seemed more rewarding!

    Reply
  31. Dr. Cricket….I love the sound of that! You have an amazing way of capturing the girls’ personalities, Rachel. 🙂

    Reply
  32. Your little furry girls are gorgeous! I have a beautiful Bicohn Firse called Lily and we recently added a naughty little cavachon called Poppy to our family. And yes, they both take their sniffing very, very seriously! I’m going to keep reading your blog and see what adventures Cricket and Butterfly get up,to. Lovely! Well done! X

    Reply
    • I used to know a Bichon named Princess Marshmallow. She was obsessed with cheese and a total love bug, though she sat on the window seat and barked violently at the poor mailman. You never expect it of the fluffy ones. And I almost adopted a cavachon before I found Cricket. He was bright white and very sleepy. At the time, I thought he might be too easy for me. And then I got Cricket, and wondered what the heck I’d been thinking.

      Reply
      • Yes my Lily adores cheese too! And she barks like crazy out my window. So much so it’s easier to keep the curtains closed most days. When post comes she has to sniff it before I can open it… Like a security check!
        I intend to write a post about the two of them and include some photos. I was pretty inspired by your blog.

      • I can’t wait to see the pictures!

  33. Sounds so familiar

    Reply

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