On our last day in Rome, the Vatican was overrun by German teenagers. Apparently, there was some big youth ministry event, during which Catholic teens from across Europe came to listen to church leaders speak. I guess because the pope is German, the vast majority of these teenagers were from Germany.

That was great for the German teens, but it meant that St. Peter’s was closed and, because we were leaving the next morning, we weren’t going to get to see it. That was pretty disheartening; the German teens had been crowding the entire city and causing havoc everywhere we looked all week, and then to not see one of Rome’s most important sites because of them was like icing on the sweaty-smelling, loud-speaking, unaware-of-any-country’s-social-protocols cake. (Seriously, imagine thousands of teenagers all clumped together. If you’re a teenager yourself, it’s awesome, but if you aren’t it isn’t.)

Anyway, we were pretty dejected and we went to a park near the Vatican to sit down and rest. We had walked to the Vatican from our hotel, which according to Google maps is just over 2 and half miles (not counting getting lost a few times), and we had also gone through the harrowing experience of the Vatican museum, so we were also fairly exhausted.

Around the time we sat down, we noticed a dog come by, on a leash. The dog stopped at a bush right in front of us and began urinating. The dog’s owner yanked on the leash, and the dog quickly went back to walking, and we didn’t think much more of it.

However, as we sat on the bench for the next half an hour or so, we noticed that every dog that walked by went over and smelled that bush, but no others. What was even more interesting was that at one point we saw the original dog that had urinated on the bush coming back in our direction. At the same time, another dog was being walked by the bush. The new dog stopped and smelled the bush and then continued about 30 feet until it began passing the original dog. At that point, both dogs erupted into a furious barking frenzy. Their owners yanked on their leashes and scolded them, then looked at each other apologetically. They had no idea what could have caused the spontaneous outburst.

But we did! Obviously the new dog must have recognized the scent of the original dog from the bush it had just smelled, and for some reason that scent prompted both dogs to have outbursts. I don’t what these smells “meant” to the dogs, but they obviously signified somehow. I also don’t know how long this chain of communication had been going on. Maybe the new dog had already urinated on the bush at some point, and the original dog had breached some sort of etiquette by marking the spot.

Or maybe it was something else. What was clear, however, was that as we watched the dogs we became aware of a who layer of communication that was going on between these dogs, that no one else, especially their owners, seemed to be aware of.

The park where we witnessed secret dog communication

Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

One comment

  1. I wouldn’t have publicly announced that you were aware of the secret dog communication. Now that you have you better watch out. The secret canine combinations are going to get you. Also, teenagers in groups is one of my least favorite things.

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