There has been only one occasion in Lila’s life when she has refused her breakfast.  And that was worrying.  Very worrying.  Until I noticed her stowing bits of kibble in her cheeks to transport them to her bed where she carefully stashed them in the folds of a blanket.  She was clearly planning for a brighter future.  One with a renewed appetite (as depicted in a dog with her bone).  

This behaviour harks back to a canine history where food was scarce and competition for it fierce.  Not just from other dogs, but all sorts of carnivores. A world with reason to hide uneaten prey before someone else got a whiff of it.  Burying bones and carcasses also made sense in times of bounty.   If there was too much to eat, a dog might save something for leaner times.  And buried meat would naturally age.  [read more below]

[wpvideo xhWjwPHZ w=484]

Despite the logic behind dogs burying bones, I found myself amazed when I first observed our two-big-meals-a-day-with-lots-of-snacks-in-between Lila doing this in the backyard.  And with such grace and expertise.  Finding just the right spot.   Skillfully digging a hole with her front paws.   Placing the bone at the very bottom.  Shovelling dirt back over it with her snout.  And even tidying up a bit afterwards.

Merriam-Webster defines “instinct” as (1) a natural or inherent aptitude, impulse, or capacity, (2a)  a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason and (2b) behaviour that is mediated by reactions below the conscious level.  And that’s all well and good, but I’d like to add (3) knowledge mysteriously passed down through the generations like the most precious of gifts.

[If you have received this post by email, please click “dog downunder” or “bone burial” in order to view accompanying video in a web page.]