How to Smell Like a Dog
OK, so not literally to have the odour of a dog because let’s face it, dogs are pretty stinky most of the time. But have you ever noticed how intently dogs sniff and smell their environment? They can easily spend a minute or two or five on the same spot taking in every possible scent they can detect. It is estimated that a dog’s sense of smell may be a million times more sensitive than that of a humans.
As humans, we simply aren’t wired to get significant information through smell. We typically don’t even notice odours unless they allure us or repulse us. Something either smells good or smells bad. We simply don’t satisfy our curiousity through smell and it’s probably because we just don’t smell that good.
I have been reading the book “Inside of a Dog; What Dogs See, Smell, and Know” and it is definitely giving me some insight into dogs but interestingly, also about myself and humans. I have been spending more time paying attention to my dog’s behaviour and how I might learn from her. (I have always said that if I could come back as any animal, it would be as a dog).
What smelling is to dogs, I have learned, seeing is to humans. We as humans, have the capacity to take in information about our environment through vision as a dog acquires information through smell. But when do we actually spend the time to really take in our environment through our eyes?
A week or so ago, I walked with my dog, Chobe, in downtown Winnipeg for over an hour. I have never walked with her downtown, thinking she prefers a more natural environment. But I very intentionally wanted to give her the opportunity to experience something new through scent and I couldn’t think of a better place to do that than a downtown area of a large city. The other intention I set for this walk was that every time my dog stopped to smell, I would stop to see.
What an amazing experience! Sometimes we stopped for thirty seconds and sometimes we stopped for two minutes. Sometimes we only progressed two or three steps before a new scent caught Chobe’s attention and sometimes we went for a hundred meters before any stop. But each time, I really focused on what I was seeing. The texture of the sidewalk, the colours in a sign, the movement of people and cars, all seemed new to me. I looked in all directions and there was never a point at which I had absorbed all the information available to me before Chobe chose to move on. Rarely do I spend this much time really looking around in my typical way of being. It was so joyful and so simple. I was experiencing Chobe’s pleasure because I was not rushing her along for the sake of just exercise. And I was fully experiencing my own pleasure.
There truly is something to slowing down and paying attention. We have been gifted with many senses and for the most part, we don’t take full advantage of them. I will continue to learn from Chobe and remind myself everyday that I want to smell just like a dog!