Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The North-South Axis

Usually at this time of year, when Denver's winter really starts, when the temperatures plunge and I watch Orion begin his slow descent on the horizon, falling lower and lower each night, after the promise of longer days and shorter nights has been made by the spinning of the earth and its slow rotation around the sun, I think of North and South only in terms of the hemispheres and their weather, with a big "Ha ha, suckers," directed toward those who live on the southern side of the planet and who have just reached that point on their calendar when their own days grow shorter, and longer, darker nights become a reality. Their summer has just begun, of course, but each evening when I drive home I notice the sun resting on the horizon a little longer and a little higher, and each morning when I rise the skies are bluer when Duncan and I finally venture out.

This year, however, I've been thinking of North and South in an entirely different manner. A few days ago I stumbled across an article on Live Science that has answered a question I've had since the night Ken first brought Duncan home: why do dogs spin in circles before squatting to take care of the Big Job, the Number Two. Those of us who lack yards and must don our winter coats and boots, pull on our mittens and hats each time our companions need a walk or a bathroom break, are well familiar with the tiring experience of standing in the cold watching our friends move in a slow circle, butt low to the ground, as they go around and around and around again, being ever so particular about where they chose to take care of business. I have shivered and bounced in my boots for minutes at a time, impatiently waiting for Roo to choose the exact spot, always wondering what the big deal is, why one patch of land is preferred over another. 

It seems as though a team of German and Czech researchers may have finally answered that question. After two years of watching dogs poop, they have finally concluded that the reason for the exhausting selectivity is because dogs prefer to do the job in alignment with the magnetic lines, meaning they like to face either north or south when the deed finally goes down. So, because I'm a curious fellow, I have spent the past four days diligently watching Duncan poop, taking note of the direction he faces each time he goes. And as luck––or science––would have it, it looks like these researchers are correct, at least in the case of a certain Golden Retriever who's laid claim to my life. Without fail, every time, his head and rump and have turned and turned and finally settled in such a way that one or the other is pointed north.

And there's your science tidbit. Give it a try yourself and see if your dog's compass points North.

If you liked this story and would like to share your thoughts or the results of your own experiments, I'd love to hear from you. Please don't be a lurker. Post a comment! They're greatly appreciated!

*Photo courtesy of Google Images


Berts Blog said...

Well, now you have done it. I'll spend the next week watching all the dogs that come to the kennel as they releive themselves to test the theory myself. Way to go. I finally get back on line and this is what you give me.
I shall now head to bed with a smile on my face and a plan for tomorrow in my brain.

Berts' My Vickie

Anonymous said...

Hi Curt - I finally discovered your blog and enjoyed spending the holidays catching up on your and Duncan's adventures!

I always wondered about this, and especially after Reilly came into my life, because he seemed to be the only dog I knew that *didn't* do the spin-and-squat. (Instead, with great reluctance, he would select a spot, squat, avert his gaze, and hang his head, as if deeply ashamed that he was having to poop in public.)

You have given me a new science project for my excursions across the street to the park (and a welcome distraction from the gaggle of Canada geese that poop there with great abandon and no such care or artistry).

A scratch behind the ears to Duncan,
lisa from downstairs

Curt Rogers said...

Lisa! I haven't seen the two of you since before Christmas. I hope you've been well. Reilly must be jonesing for some treat! I've always got a pocket full of them. Let's visit soon.