GPS or…memory?

My other dog knew our walking route better than I did.  When we came to the appointed street, she’d make the turn before I did.  I began to realize she was smarter than me on our walks (then again she was smarter than me in general about a lot of things but that’s a topic for a different post).  What made these dogs remember these incidents.

Recently Sam and I encountered a kitty along our walks.  Ordinarily cats high tail it away from us since Sam is a high energy boy and exudes his bouncy nature along the way.  Plus I think he has a fairly high prey drive (just ask the neighborhood fox).  His last owner warned me that he wasn’t “good around cats” and because I’m allergic, it didn’t seem like this would be a problem I’d ever need to deal with anyway.  But Sam is nothing if he isn’t full of surprises.

We were walking recently and I spotted a tabby cat.  I figured it would take off shortly once it that saw that Sam was at the end of the leash.  But it just sat there.  I slowed Sam down so as not to freak out the cat and have him tear after her with me being dragged behind but she still just sat there.  We came right up to her and she actually let Sam sniff her face without any hissing, scratching or horseshoe-ing in to that ‘scaredy-cat’ Halloween stance.  She just purred, twirled around his legs and sniffed his butt and he then did the same thing! Ok, well, not purred but his tail was wagging furiously back and forth and he did sniff her butt.   His posture was super erect as if he’d been pumped up with air. He was very excited but not sure what to do next.  I figured the kitty would tear off into some nearby shrubs but instead she kept circling around and in between his legs and mine.  Sam was in 7th heaven (though I wonder if he had any idea what this charming creature was)!  Finally she sauntered off and we continued on our walk.  The next day, at the exact same place, he looked for her.  Around the shrubs,  toward the stairs to the house, all around.  And the next day.  Same spot, same search, every day that we passed there.  It was nearly two weeks before we saw her again in the alley behind the house where we originally encountered her.  I looked down the alley and lo and behold next to the dumpster, there she was!  Sam was just elated.  From then on he began to search whenever we approached that alley to see if his new BFF was there. If she wasn’t, I’d tell him, “sorry buddy your little friend isn’t out yet this morning” and disappointingly he’d resume his pace though he did often look over his shoulder to see if perhaps she would come out from behind something to greet him.

Whenever we do run into her, Sam is as happy as a clam at high tide, bouncing  up to her like a jack rabbit.  She patiently watches and waits till he comes to her and they do their ritual sniffing. He does however tend to move on fairly quickly these days and the cat has taken to rubbing against me more than Sam now (what IS it about cats that they seem to know who’s allergic to them?!).  So can anyone tell me if this story is a case of super canine GPS or just a case of good memory that kicks in every day that Sam hopes to meet up with his new friend, exchange meaningful sniffs and then continue on his merry way, because I’m totally baffled.

Sam's new friend.
Sam’s new friend.

Has your dog ever done that?  What do you think…is it GPS or memory that guides them?