September 11, 2005


Leading Humans by the Nose

Dogs are not as big on irony as, say, cats, but even we get that it's ironic how humans pride themselves on their intelligence and yet, in a lot of situations, are not exactly bright. You might even say they're senseless. There's just an awful lot your average human doesn't know. Like the meaning of anosmia, for instance. I once said to Mike, "So if blind means not seeing and deaf means not hearing, what's your word for not smelling?" Know what? He didn't even know, and he's supposed to speak human pretty well.

But you know why? Because they're all suffering from anosmia (I looked it up) and don't even realize it. You can't believe some of the interesting, pungent odors wafting from Mike and Molly. I mean, I can tell where they've been, what they've been doing, what they've eaten, how they're feeling, and even whether they're in a playful mood - and all with a good, swift sniff. Their method of finding out what's going on usually involves lots of long, boring talk. It's so slow and, I've got to say, less accurate. Humans can hide lots of stuff from each other, but they can't hide much from the hound.

Which is why they need us. I was reading in an article the other day that the poor humans have only got about 5 million olfactory cells in their noses compared to about 300 million in dogs. Now, I'm not too good with numbers but I think that's a sort of Irish Wolfhound vs. Chihuahua kind of difference. Forget seeing eye dogs. What all the humans need are smelling nose dogs.

In fact, that article says that canines "have been humankind's detection and tracking device of choice for hundreds, if not thousands, of years." They depend on us for hunting. Not to mention searching and rescuing. Not to mention locating other humans and sniffing out drugs and bombs. It sort of makes a Labrador proud to think the humans at least have enough sense to let us lead them by the nose when it really counts.

Except now I hear they're building their own noses. In airports, they've got sniffer machines. For us dogs, it's not a big surpise that humans are trying to replace us with gadgets. Sometimes it's hard for me to tell where the humans end and the thingamajigs begin. It's not just the clothes, which are weird but at least better than the freakish hairlessness. It's the other stuff, merging seemlessly with their clever paws like varied yet interchangeable tentacles: knives and forks, pens and computer mice, iPods and cell phones, power drills and the ever horrid vacuum cleaners.

Of course, there are truly lovely machines such as refrigerators and electronic can openers, things even the most skeptical of canines can appreciate. Still, the endless human doodads make us uncomfortable and sometimes even alarm us, especially when they're built to mimic living thing, including dogs. That's why I think that if one of those airport sniffer machines ever shows up in the park where my friends and I gather, we will approach it cautiously at first. But then, if it has no electric jaws, we'll treat it the same way we do your average fire hydrant, except more so.

Wow - you're one cool dog. Thanks for the good read!
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