Scrolling through the political echo chamber on Twitter last week, I noticed an intriguing local news story about a corpse flower that was on bloom watch. It was a very intentional pet project of a science professor at Washington State University-Vancouver, which is just down the street from where Rain had her herding test a couple of years ago.
When I shared the information with Steven he pointed out that Rain, as a trained nosework and truffle dog, might enjoy smelling the stinky flower. I agreed, and from the live webcam it looked like the plant was stationed outside and was protected from close access from visitors. Corpse flower watch was ON!
Tuesday morning when I got to work I discovered that the flower was officially blooming, and ten minutes later I spotted a longer line forming behind the closer-range visitors on the live YouTube feed. After some consideration, rather than scrambling to head over immediately we reluctantly decided to wait. The bloom would be open from 24-48 hours, Rain and I were already committed to class that evening, and making Rain wait in a long line with other dogs present seemed unwise. Ultimately we decided to head up to The ‘Couve the following evening after work.
Our trip up to Vantucky was relatively uneventful, and everyone was visiting the WSUV campus for the first time. Atop a hill, the campus is still relatively small but growing, with rolling grassy fields between school buildings and parking lots. Those fields looked like the perfect thing for Rain to enjoy before heading home.
As it turned out, the flower was well on its way to closing when we arrived: 48 1/2 hours after the official time they determined it was blooming. (Professor Steve Sylvester was keeping track of all sorts of measurements—a true scientist!) The up side was that there were a tiny fraction of the visitors compared with the prior day, the down side was that the funky smell seemed to be completely finished. Even the section of the flower Dr. Sylvester passed around, which had been cut out of it to pollinate the flower more than 24 hours prior, had no smell whatsoever. Even when we held the cut section up for Rain to smell, she seemed largely uninterested.
Rain was getting antsy having all the people around her (a couple of which were also holding small dogs) so we retreated to a large boulder in the corner of this small courtyard.
Eventually though, we had all finished with our corpse flower visit—time to explore some of the undeveloped grassy fields! We made our way to an adjacent hillside where there was no risk of disturbing the corpse flower visitors. Rain got to poke her nose into rodent holes, trot through the sweet-smelling dried grass, and smell the warm summer air. We played some fetch, then after drinking some water we headed back uphill.
At times I let go of Rain’s leash, waiting for her to get a certain distance from me, then calling her back to practice her recall. I am particularly glad that I had her leash firmly in hand, then, when she saw the bunny.
She was very interested in the bunny, and pulled me toward where she saw it maneuver between a building and a shrub. Stopping to sniff the ground, I indicated we would be heading in a different direction, and she clearly indicated “NO! I wanna go chase that bunny!” I coaxed her out of it, but a few steps later we both saw the frozen bunny in a patch of grass beyond the bushes.
Seeing the bunny gave her a second wind though, and she cheerfully walked back to the car with us, clearly checking for bunnies in nooks and crannies along the way.
An unfortunate postscript: that grassy field apparently had some sort of a sticky weed, and when we got home I discovered that Rain was covered in a thin layer of whatever liquid it produced to stick to things. Imagine a dog that has had a good layer of Aqua Net applied. It didn’t take much brushing to realize that it wasn’t going to help, but I wouldn’t have time to give her a bath until the following evening. She just got a bath last weekend! She looked and felt so nice—and now this. Hopefully she won’t melt after having two baths in the course of one week.
See more photos of the WSU Corpse Flower on Flickr, and check out this FAQ about Titan VanCoug (that’s its name) from Washington State University.