“She’s starting to smell a little ‘doggy’.”
It’s hard to describe what goes through my mind whenever I hear one or the other of my humans utter that word. ‘Doggy’. There is a tone with which this proclamation is made that suggests, no, screams, disdain. It’s as though I’ve been caught red-pawed in the commission of some sort of olfactory felony. I smell ‘doggy’. Imagine that.
Would it be better if I smelled a little ‘catty’? Or maybe ‘ratty’, or ‘squirrelly’? How about ‘fishy’? “Gee, Hon, Kaya’s starting to smell like a flounder.” Perfect.
First, let’s set the record straight. I’m a dog. I like being a dog. Love it, in fact. That I smell like one should come as no surprise. Certainly not to my humans, since they seem to like and understand me better than many of their kind and, you’d think, should know better. But they don’t.
And who are they to judge? I mean, think about it. What are they capable of smelling in the first place? Do they really believe their noses are all that sensitive? Compared to me and my pals?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to listen to them go on and on about how great, or not so great, something smells. The roses, near where I bury some of my more important things, for instance. They’ll put their faces right into the flower and take a huge sniff before blurting out, “Wow, this smells so good!” I can smell the roses growing at Milo’s place, and that’s like half a mile from here. And I wouldn’t say they smell ‘good’. They smell like roses. It’s complicated.
Then there’s the whole dinnertime nonsense. “Mmm, that chicken smells great! The nose on that Cabernet is amazing!” OK. I’ll give them the chicken. It does, in fact, smell pretty good, and if I play my cards right I can usually get them to give me some. But the wine thing? Wine doesn’t even have a nose! It’s wine. It’s made from grapes. It smells like grapes after you let them sit around and rot for a while. It does not smell like coffee, or tobacco, or burnt leather or partially digested grass from the park—trust me.
And what about the trash? Why do they always say it smells ‘bad’? Why do they insist upon applying such a simplistic qualifier to something as pungent and complex as the trash? If anything smells like coffee, tobacco, burnt leather, lavender or any of those other things they like to compare their wine to its what’s sitting in the trash pail. It’s certainly not the stupid wine! Don’t get me started.
I’ve done some research. It turns out our noses have something like 60 times the functional surface area that human ones have, the area of our brains that processes smells is 40% larger, we have 50 times as many scent receptors, and our noses have about 5000 times the sensitivity of human noses.
Humans are so inferior in the smelling department that they aren’t even able to understand how limited they are. It’s like trying to get Stephen Hawking to truly understand what it feels like to be Mikail Baryshnikov in his prime, or like trying to get Joe Biden to understand what it’s like being Stephen Hawking. It can’t be done. They don’t have the tools to process the information. No wonder the best they can come up with is ‘doggy’.
Which brings me to my original point. Whenever they mention the D word it means I have a bad day coming sometime in the near future. I never know when, exactly, because it starts like any other day. I wake up, I get the humans up, we go for a walk, come home, have breakfast, maybe a nap. Just like always. Then the doorbell rings. I do what I always do—run to the door and start barking. Just in case the person on the other side is a bad guy.
And here’s where it gets a little embarrassing. Given my superior sense of smell you’d think I’d know who was out there, especially if he’s been here before, and more especially if it’s someone I’m not particularly fond of. But no. I stand there barking like an idiot until it’s too late. One of the humans opens the door, the groomer steps inside, and before I have a chance to run he’s got a collar on me and we’re walking to the truck.
The truck is diabolical. I climb up—what’s the use of fighting?—and into this tub thing. There are hoses, blow dryers, blankets and towels, plus a whole collection of soaps and conditioners. I get the full treatment. The bath, the teeth cleaning, the claw trimming—which is a real nuisance if I have some burying or digging up to do that day—plus some other, more personal, attention. It takes an hour or so.
By the time it’s over I’m exhausted, my fur is all fluffy, and I smell like I’ve been rolling around in perfume. “Ooh, you smell so nice!” Again with the lame descriptors. If they could smell what I smell they wouldn’t be so pleased with themselves. Of course, I go directly out to the back yard and lie down in the mud under the orange tree. I roll around a little. It takes the edge off, but I reek for days. I don’t start smelling like myself for a couple of weeks. And I know that just when I’m about right, when I’m smelling a little ‘doggy’, I’m going to have to go through the whole ordeal all over again.