When I am out on a walk one of the nicest moments can be an encounter with a dog. Everything from a dog catching my eye from a window, to a passing butt scratch in the crosswalk, to several minutes standing at a corner discussing the joys of dogs with their person on the other end of a leash. It takes very little for me to get a warm rush of oxytocin from the fluffy encounter. But since the pandemic, and social distancing requirements, I have started to wonder, “Can dogs still smell me at six feet away?”
I know dogs use their eyes to get their cues from humans, and their hearing helps them distinguish between friend and foe. After reading the book, Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz, I also know dogs have a very sophisticated sense of smell. So for all the dogs that are now inside, and only viewing me from a faraway window sill, I wonder what they are thinking?
What’s been tough these past weeks for me has been not getting my canine fix from the oldsters at the doggy loft. Muttville Senior Dog Rescue was quick to get all the dogs into foster homes for virtual adoptions, which meant they didn’t need volunteers washing bedding, taking dogs for morning walks or helping them with breakfast. Something I’m realizing now, after these many weeks without being around them, is that I genuinely miss those stinky kisses from the sugar faces.
My husband would remind me each week when I returned home from a shift at the loft, how much dog smell I brought with me. I would respond by saying that I actually liked it and didn’t notice it after the first fifteen minutes of my shift. Only now do I remember that the dogs left their signature smells on my clothes and those unique scents were what he was identifying. Since I was a small child, I loved dogs and their smells, even wet dogs. Granted my favorite smell, reinforced by a certain shepherd husky, comes from plush dog fur. Getting a snoot full takes me back to three years old and my first dog, a Samoyed I imprinted on, who let me brush her for hours on end.
For now, I am grateful for even a distant bark from an apartment window, or a brief look from a dog passing by in a car. It will truly be a day to celebrate when I return to the doggy loft, where social distancing is dictated by the dog not the CDC or the mayor. Until then, if you see a lady with her face covered, slowing down to check out your dog, and maybe wave her fingers at them from six feet away, don’t worry it’s only me.