My apologies for the crass headline (I have been reading the New York Post a bit too much of late). Nevertheless, a reader recently inquired as to my thoughts on the dog-fire hydrant relationship. Why do dogs pee on these squat pieces of metal and why do some city dogs seem absolutely unable to control their obsession for both urinating and sniffing these objects?
First, a safety point. Given that death can come suddenly for the dog that mistakenly urinates on the exposed electricals at the base of traffic lights (a significant and tragic plot point in A Dog About Town), the choice of a fire hydrant as a target is at least a benign one.
But, again, why urinate on such objects at all? Yours Truly usually manages to control his urges to mark the neighborhood, but it is an understandable urge. I decided to take a quick look at the Internet to see what humans thought of the fire hydrant behavior and was surprised to find the following excellent observation by someone calling him/herself bowlinggreen (possibly a downtown Manhattanite?):
Yes, it’s like a tree stump in a city. Dogs normally mark on trees, but cities have few of them so hydrants will do. They would pee on signposts but they are too narrow so they would miss. Hydrants are nice and fat, and just the right size. When they sniff hydrants they gather all kinds of information…. like Pippi the poodle was there that day and she’s in heat, or that Boris the wolfhound has a bladder infection or that Max the pit bull had fish for dinner. They sniff dried pee to gather data, the same way we surf the internet to learn about the world. by bowlinggreen on August 26th, 2006