Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/373

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359
A ZOÖLOGICAL ENIGMA.

A ZOÖOGICAL ENIGMA.
By FELIX L. OSWALD, M. D.

PROFESSOR ULRICI, the modern Rosicrucian, defends spiritualism on the plea that it meets the demands of what he calls our Wunderbedürfniss, the propensity to indulge in wonderment, which he includes among the normal instincts of the human mind. A taste for enigmas is a primitive manifestation of the thirst for knowledge in general, and thus akin to the very primum mobile of all intellectual progress, but in its legitimate forms that propensity might exert its functions on an ample field within the domain of the strictly physical sciences. The problems of modern chemistry, physiology, and natural history confront us with countless unsolved questions, with phenomena more wonderful in their reality than any dreams of hysterical hallucinations or of the wildest fancy. The marvel-hunter who gropes his way through the arcana of an unknown world might pursue his quarry more profitably on the hunting-grounds of his own planet—more successfully, too, if he would keep his eyes open. The sunlit fields and the gaslit laboratory reveal truer wonders than the dark closet of the spook-manufacturer; the tests of the naturalist yield the same result at all times and under all circumstances their success does not depend on the obfuscation of the locality (and of the witnesses); it is not jeopardized by the presence of skeptical critics, or the absence of discreet accomplices. Many notorious phenomena, apparently familiarized by their frequency, in reality still involve mysteries whose solution might disclose new paths of research, or reflect a helpful light upon the problems of a kindred science. The diffusion of contagious diseases, submarine currents, the synchronism of storms and shooting-stars, hibernation, the survival of reptiles in close-grained rocks, the weather-wisdom of the tree-toad and trap-door spider, for instance, have been only partially explained; nay, every amateur naturalist may indulge in an experiment whose general result seems so utterly inexplicable on any recognized scientific principle that it reduces our speculations to a phraseology of metaphors to the nomenclature of an unknown quantity.

We often hear of the wondrous sagacity—generally ascribed to memory or acuteness of scent—which enables a dog to find his way home by unknown roads, even from a considerable distance. I think it can be practically demonstrated that this faculty has nothing to do with memory, and very little with scent, except in a quite novel sense of the word.

Last fall, my neighbor, Dr. L. G———, of Cincinnati, Ohio, exchanged some suburban property for a house and office near the City Hospital, and at the same time discharged a number of his four-footed retainers. A litter of poodle puppies were banished to Covington, Kentucky, across