Last week’s topic was remarkable things about animals you might normally consider unremarkable; pigeons as potential surgeons, snails asleep for years, that sort of thing. That left me wondering if there’s stuff we don’t know about dogs and cats.

Did you know some seeing eye dogs are trained to “do their business” on command (did you say “sit” or…?). Cats are farsighted, overlarge eyes make it difficult to focus on anything less than 12 inches in front of them, relying instead on their whiskers to sense what they can’t see. Stray dogs in Russia have figured out navigating Moscow’s subway system, having also learned the most likely stops for finding food. $20 million of our Federal tax dollars were used in the 1960s to train cats equipped with mini cameras and microphones to spy on Russians. The program was cancelled when the first feline 007, en route to an assumed Soviet secret meeting, was run over by a Washington D.C. taxi. Paul McCartney claims the Beatles added a high-pitched frequency only their dog fans can hear at the end of their “A Day in the Life.” Sir Isaac Newton is credited with inventing the pet door (the flap cut into a full-sized door) as a way stop his pesky cat, constantly demanding to come and go, from interrupting his experiments.

One dog survived the Titanic’s sinking disguised as a baby, wrapped in a blanket, and carried off by a rescued first-class passenger. Cats don’t have collarbones, making it possible for them to squeeze into those impossibly tight spaces. “Don’t let them smell your fear” is literally true for dogs who, gifted with a sense of smell considered 100,000 stronger than our own, can detect subtle changes in human body chemistry associated with strong emotions. More on the sense of smell, Bloodhounds can follow tracks over 300 hours old and their nostrils’ testimony has been accepted as evidence in court. Lacking a certain protein, cats have no “sweet tooth.” Spikey dog collars may be thought rather macho today, but the origin is to protect herding dogs from wolf attacks. Along with giraffes, Icelandic ponies and camels, cats are the only animals to step with both right legs and then both left.

Who knew! Now go hug your newly remarkable best friend.

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