what makes a stick?

It is a commonplace observation that dogs enjoy chasing, and chewing on, sticks. Rascal is no exception. It occurs to me to wonder, however, what criteria does he take into consideration when deciding what separates a stick—worthy of notice, of pursuit, of prolonged destructive efforts—from the rest of the woody matter lying around the world? After all, our yard has no shortage of what might technically be called sticks, and the woods where we walk two or three times a day has thousands of times more. And yet he's never distracted by any of that.

The usual thing that, for Rascal, distinguishes what we might term a Stick from the rest of the sticks is, of course, that one of his humans picks it up. Now it's interesting! But there are other ways for pieces of broken branch to catch his attention: a Stick might be lying on top of the snow away from other debris, or protruding dramatically upwards from a larger piece of wood. More reproducibly, anything floating in or protruding from the water is fair game for considerable retrieval efforts, even if the object in question proves to be connected to the better part of an entire tree. Which is at least amusing to watch! And there may be other factors.

Clearly, more study is needed in this area. Perhaps we could charter a journal dedicated to examining it.