Mar 7, 2010

On Habitual Behaviors and the Making of Paths

I let my dogs outside today to run around in the early March thaw and watched them follow their usual routes to investigate our one-third acre of urban paradise. Two of these paths are bee-line to the corners of the yard, as if the dogs were market-fearing investors running to the safety of gold coins, while several demonstrate predictable paths to favorite bathroom spots or known squirrel hangouts.

This reminded me of a story I heard from a person at the University of Toledo who taught for several decades and whose institutional memory I trust. This professor recalled that when the university was planning the construction of pedestrian footpaths across the middle of campus they studied the winter path patterns created by students as they cut across what would later be the Centennial Mall. The paths were then built according to the results of the snow-study (I think the Geography department was involved, and Wikipedia offers the same history).

In recent years I have begun the process of incorporating canine traffic patterns in my gardening. One of the changes I made was moving all garden plants back at least a foot from any fence, as the dogs tend to kill all plant life along the fence with their frantic running whenever they see a passing dog walker or an insolent feline traveler. I might one day create some backyard walkways with wood chips or compost that reflect dog travel patterns, thus reconfiguring the yard in a way that beautifies what might otherwise be seen as a casualty of pet ownership.

If you can't beat 'em, mulch 'em. Something like that.


SensorG said...

Typical elitist, socialist, indoctrinating propaganda.

Sorry couldn’t help but take the thread from SB to here. :)

historymike said...

Heh - I am not sure why I have become the SB poster boy for Communist insurrection, but it is pretty funny.