My article “7 Amazing Facts About Your Dog’s Sense of Smell,” about the latest scientific info on dogs’ incredible noses, got me to thinking about my dog, Jake. Sometimes, when he’s intently following some scent at a park, I’ll ask him, “Hey Jake, whatcha sniffing?” with great enthusiasm. He’ll often pause, and give me a patient, kindly, inquisitive look, which until recently I didn’t know how to interpret. Now I do.
Armed with my fairly new knowledge of how vast and deep a dog’s scent repertoire is, I can tell you exactly what Jake is thinking when he gives me that look: “Oh, you poor, sweet little moron! I love you anyway, despite your nasal deficiencies.”
Compared to dogs, whose sense of smell is a bajillion times better than ours, we are olfactory-challenged creatures. It’s hard for us to begin to fathom things like the fact that dogs can sniff out the millions of skin cells (scurf) we shed every minute — and not only sniff it out, but distinguish my scurf from yours, and your scurf from anyone else’s. And it’s equally mind-boggling that they can tell everything they need to know about another dog who passed their way hours ago by “reading” their urine marks.
If you need evidence of this remarkable scent-detection ability, stroll down memory lane and try to remember some of the odd things your dog has found during your walks, under your porch, or in your closets — or maybe even on you! Some of our regular readers have dogs who have detected cancerous masses in their bodies before the doctors did, thus saving their owners’ lives.
Jake has found some really interesting items during his 10 years of following his nose. While sniffing around the park a couple of weeks ago, he suddenly zipped under a bush and emerged with a submarine sandwich hanging, bonelike, from each side of his drooling mouth. After other outdoor rounds, he has come back to me with a long-dead gull, balls and Frisbees of every shape and condition, a pizza box with half a cold pizza, a Barbie doll missing her head, a whole Kewpie doll, and a pair of men’s boxer shorts, to name a small fraction of his finds.
I am truly relieved that he has never found a dead body. Have you ever noticed in news reports that it’s always dog walkers who find dead bodies? The credit should inevitably go to the dog, but no matter.
It’s not just nearby objects that catch Jake’s attention. We can be on our beach in the fog with no shore fishermen in sight, and Jake will occasionally take off in a gallop, stopping several hundred feet away. Every time, it’s because there’s a fisherman. (He is a dog obsessed with fish and fishermen.) The angler may have no fish nor even bait — just lures — but somehow Jake can always detect a fisherman. I think he’d be a good air-scenting dog for search-and-rescue work, but he’s probably a little old for that career path.
And don’t get me started on the things Jake rolls in that are utterly invisible to me. Sometimes he positively reeks afterward. Other times, he doesn’t smell different at all — at least not to my pathetically inept nose.
I am waiting for Jake to find a treasure chest, a winning lottery ticket, or a valuable gem. I’d even take a free pass to the movies at this point. But because the things I would appreciate are generally not rotting or petrified-food-oriented, I’m probably out of luck. That’s okay. My dog with the splendid nose is a treasure himself.
So tell us about your dog! What odd things has he or she found with his sense of smell? Anything really bizarre or wonderful? Let us know in the comments.