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Mark Your Territory, Folks!

Why do dogs urinate on your car's tires? Why not bumpers, grilles and fenders? Tires, really? I have personally anointed thousands, but I can tell you that the habit is certainly not borne of passive aggression or even brand recognition; if that were so, we would probably just cut to the chase and bite you, and if it were all about brand loyalty, we would probably choose 'Goodyear.' After all, every dog wishes fervently for a 'good year.' <wink, wink>. Actually, for us, any brand of tire will do. This is a throw-back to our existence as wolves, and we are really just marking our territory.

Of course, there is a logical reason for singling out your tires for our attentions. You have heard the expression, "where the rubber meets the road." Believe it or not, your tires capture and preserve thousands of miles of automotive memories. Think of the number of times you have blithely driven over fresh (or not-so-fresh) road-kill, or driven for a few miles behind a truckload of doomed chickens on the way to a poultry processing plant. To us dogs, this represents a virtual living, breathing forensics lab; a biological archive, so to speak. Your tires miss nothing; especially if you are a female driver <grin>. You slog through countless scenarios that have been played out on these local highways, driveways and country lanes. When we are out there marking our territory, the well-worn road tire represents a living slice of the outside world, so we will go out of our way to sniff and mark your tire. Unless you have run someone down, or collided with a deer, your bumpers and fenders hold little fascination for us.

Urban canines have always preferred urinating on hydrants. Hydrants have been around since the early 1800's, and we literally consider them to be our private 'post offices' Hydrants are very impersonal and permanent; they don't start up and drive away and they're always there when you need them. One sniff, and we can determine when the last canine caller paid a visit, how many times, and, possibly, who they were. Our olfactory sensitivities are above reproach.

Recent studies have shown that puppies who have never been exposed to or seen a never-used hydrant will choose that hydrant to do his or her business six times out of ten. Is this preference inbred? The scientific community hasn't yet figured it out. It doesn't come down to bright colors, preexisting scents, or other obvious biological factors, so science is simply writing it off as inbred instinctive animal behavior. Dogs are evolving too, almost as quickly as our human counterparts.

We dogs still remain very territorial. In towns and cities the possibilities of our being able to walk free of leashes and fences are quickly disappearing. In major cities, some owners even have to walk behind us with a 'baggie' to collect our indiscretions. Out in the country where I live, dogs can still enjoy their morning consititutional without recriminations. We don't encounter many fences, we don't have dog catchers, the animal control facility is, for the most part, an empty building with a sleeping political appointee inside, and we don't yet have hydrants. We go from tree to tree, bush to bush, yard to yard and tire to tire, patiently marking our territory as we go. Well-meaning neighbors still watch for us and appear on their porches with little treats and a kind word and a 'pat' or two just like they did many decades ago. People around here refer to me as "the Whitlow dog," or just plain "Homer." But, with the influx of new property owners, fences are going up, "no trespassing" signs are becoming more common, and even up here, the length and breadth of our borders are gradually receding, and our world is beginning to shrink. There goes my territory!

I guess I could belabor this subject forever, but I just saw a new Jaguar with Cobb County plates pull in under the side portico. I need to get down there and check out the tires.

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