11.09.2007

Mental Floss E-News

Mental Floss is an interesting website dedicated to fun facts and interesting tid-bits from around the world. If you have a friend that seems to know a ton of obscure, useless-albiet interesting-information, they either are a Mental Floss reader, or should be immediately directed to the site.

That being said, they sent an interesting e-news letter today, all dedicated to interesting K9 fun facts.

If you enjoy this sort of thing, check out the Mental Floss Website/Blog/Trivia pages. They are a fun way to tease the brain.

A 21 Bone Salute
by Kara Kovalchik & Sandy Wood

Harding’s Pooch: One of our nation’s most beloved First Pets was Laddie Boy, the Airedale that belonged to President Warren G. Harding. Laddie Boy was a celebrity in his own right, garnering more press during the Harding administration than his master. He sat in his own hand-carved chair for cabinet meetings, greeted visiting dignitaries on the White House steps, and faithfully brought the newspaper to the commander in chief every morning. The Newsboys Association collected 19,134 pennies which were melted down and made into a sculpture of Laddie Boy, which is now on display in the Smithsonian.

Why do dogs wag their tails when they’re happy? Scientists believe that the dog uses its tail as a method of social communication. If give your pooch a dog biscuit, he’ll usually wag his tail as he takes it. But if he’s alone and finds a dog biscuit in his dish, he’ll just eat it with no tail interaction. In the first scenario, he is using his tail to express his appreciation and excitement to you, the Alpha person who is providing him with a treat. In the second case, there’s no one around to thank, so no tail talk is necessary. Puppies don’t start wagging their tails until they are about seven weeks old. It is a “learned” behavior, just as playing and biting are. Pups roughhouse with their littermates, and eventually learn that a wagging tail can be used as a sign of truce when things get too serious.

Cancer sniffing hounds: You’ve heard of drug-sniffing dogs and bomb-sniffing dogs. Meet the latest canine nose specialty: cancer-sniffing dogs. It started when a few dog owners visited their doctors when their pooch suddenly and relentlessly started sniffing at a mole or small mark on their arm or leg. The dogs would whimper, scratch and bite at the offending area. In these cases, the owners were diagnosed with a malignant melanoma, or skin cancer, which is highly curable when detected early. When it comes to sniff power, dogs can identify chemical traces in the range of parts per trillion. Cancer cells emit different metabolic waste products than normal cells, and in the case of breast and lung cancer, those waste products are exhaled by the patient. A dog’s keen sense of smell can notice that strange biochemical marker in his owner even when the disease is in the very early stages.

Can dogs see themselves in mirrors or in photographs? Sort of – but this doesn’t mean that the image interests them at all. Canine eyes are set further apart in their skulls than human eyes, and as a rule, they deviate approximately 20 degrees lateral to the midline. Human eyes look straight ahead and have no such deviation. A dog’s total field of vision, however, is about 240 degrees, while homo sapiens only have a 180 degree view of the world. As a result, Fido sees more of the activity going on around him, not right in front of his (rather considerable) nose. Dogs have trouble focusing forward, which is why they tend to cock their heads when you stand in front of them and talk or reach out to them.