Animal relative hardiness

I grew up outside of city limits, not really on a farm, but not really in town either. The experience gave me some incorrect ideas about how rugged animals are.

On a rainy day when I was about seven or eight years old, I saw our dog drink rain-diluted cow urine out of hoof print in a cow patty. Didn’t seem to hurt the dog, and I’ve never willingly let a dog lick my face since then.

Seeing a dog drink something that would surely have injured me, gave me the impression that dogs and most large mammals can eat and drink things that would sicken or kill a human.

This turns out to not be strictly true. Even though modern humans have digestive systems that require at least some cooked food, modern humans can eat lots of things that other animals can’t.

Famously, chocolate is bad for dogs. Plants apparently evolved caffeine and capsaicin as a result of arms races with co-evolving insects. Humans gladly consume all three substances without much in the way of ill effects. Primates seem to be the only mammals that like alcohol. Modern humans go so far as to create alcohol on purpose, domesticating fungi that can ferment.

This should go to show you that you can’t retain your childhood beliefs without verifying them. Some or even most childhood beliefs are wrong.