It was many years ago that I adopted this phrase as part of a bit that I called "Non-Sequitur Theater": Dogs run forward in times of trouble. I mixed this in with "At distances of more than one hundred fifty feet, an alligator can outrun a man," and "Until 1980 there were no pianos in China." This was the obverse of a conversational gambit. These words were designed to confound and perplex anyone who would be caught in the crossfire. The trouble is, I cannot verify any of these phrases as true. I have thought, from time to time, that this would be a nice time to call in my own personal Mythbuster episode, but since Adam and Jamie gave the Build Team the heave-ho, I confess I'm not as interested. Instead, I am left to contemplate the vagaries of how these ideas came to rest in my head and be spouted as fact.
The alligator one is simple enough. People have been trying to figure out how to outrun these reptiles for quite some time. Most will counsel running in a zig-zag pattern, since it seems to confuse or frustrate the beast and allows even those less fleet-of-foot to escape the razor sharp teeth and powerful jaws of this oddly designed creature. I guess what I'm saying here is that of the three aphorisms, this one seems to have the barest connection to reality. The number of alligator-taunters in our swampy climes seems to be significant enough to generate some truth in this matter. I would, however, advise against testing this assertion just in case alligators happen to have converted to the metric system at some point and confused matters even more.
As for the state of pianos in the communist state of China, I have no idea from whence this notion came. It might have been that "the piano a despised instrument of the bourgeoisie." Or maybe it was that when the piano was first introduced, "people were spooked: they thought there were human bones rattling around inside." Perhaps it was a math thing: Eighty-eight keys for all those millions of people, there just wasn't enough ivory to go around. And the 1980? I'm guessing that just popped up because that is right about the time I started doing "Non-Sequitur Theater." So that makes sense, right?
About dogs running forward in times of trouble, I can only say that it appealed to me at the time and still does as a lovely bit of homespun wisdom. I like to believe that it speaks to the fierce and dedicated nature of our canine friends, always willing to rush in where angels fear to tread. Or maybe they are simply too dim at times to notice that the door is right behind them and backing up would have saved them a world of worry and hurt. The most obvious part of this one is that dogs just aren't built for backing up. They can do it, if they have to, but they aren't predisposed to it. Come to think of it, neither are humans, but we manage to do it all the time. Kind of like what I'm doing right now, after years of lurching forward with these apparently nonsensical statements, I am now walking them back to try and give them meaning. Welcome to Sequitur Theater.