Monday, May 13, 2013

A Dovetail of Interests

Last week on the Poodle (and Dog) blog, there was a post about an anthropologist and his dog. The kicker is that both have shuffled off this mortal coil. The anthropologist, Grover Krantz (evidently"the world's foremost Bigfoot expert") donated his remains to The Body Farm in Tennessee on the condition that his dogs must not be separated from him. Doug Owsley, a Smithsonian Institute forensic anthropologist (and one of the people who identified bodies at Waco, Texas, after the raid on the Branch Davidians), used Dr. Krantz's remains along with those of one of his beloved Irish Wolfhounds in an exhibit, which shares a title with Owsley's book, Written in Bone: Bone Biographer's Casebook. Doug Owsley is not to be confused with Owsley Stanley, the storied LSD provider (cooker, even?) for the Grateful Dead. Only so many degrees away, though, I guess.

Well. These two things are a match made in heaven for me. Dogs and forensics? Perfect!

The Body Farm (Colloquially named; its actually the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center), if you don't know (have I posted about it before? If not, I've been remiss), is where forensic students may study the decay of human bodies in various conditions. That's right; people who donated their bodies to science may then be out in the elements, in a garbage bag, in a car, etc. so that scientists may better learn about the stages of decomposition in those circumstances. Having hard observations of such things are extremely valuable when discerning cause and time of death in a death investigation. Bill Bass has written several fantastic books on the topic, and it's also mentioned in Mary Roach's book Stiff: the curious lives of human cadavers (a book I really just ought to own).

Anthropology is another one of those "missed majors" I had in college. I really enjoyed the anthropology classes I took, but it never occurred to me to switch to that from psychology. Might I have been happier? Might I have discovered my interest in forensics all those years ago instead of now, and have collegiate education in it instead of my frenetic layperson's research? It's funny; the job my grandmother had for years and years was as a secretary in the hospital where I was the pathology department. I spent a little bit of time there in her office, every once in awhile, if there was a gap in daycare, or secretary day, or really I don't know why I was there. But I remember spending some time on one of those visits drawing animal "skeletons" and telling people I was going to be a veterinarian. I may or may not have received a Barbie veterinarian just prior to that visit, complete with pink scrubs in dress form, a white coat, and a white dog. I'm sure her shoes were white pumps as well, for the total practicality. I certainly know I didn't really know what skeletons looked like at the time. But it's funny to think back on these little breadcrumbs through my life, and put together my interests now, and paths I could have taken.

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