I know. It's hard to believe, but this beautiful, sweet creature is actually kind of disgusting.
The photo above is my dog, Vida. Some of you may recall that I adopted her in late September, about 5 months after I had lost my mini Aussie shepherd Tippy to bone cancer.
Before becoming my companion, Vida had been in three shelters. Previous to that she had been a stray. No one knows what she was before that. All I know is that she is remarkably sweet, loving, and good doggie. And yet, she’s also disgusting.
As difficult as social distancing has been for me, it is more so for Vida. That's because dogs are not known for keeping their distance, something which annoys the heck out of Dan’s cat, Pantera. Vida will come right up to him and stick her nose on him – usually on his butt. This is not part of the Cat Code of Etiquette, which Vida has never read because, well, she can't read. Under normal circumstances, Pantera would hiss and back off. But things have changed for all species lately.
A while ago, I stopped by Dan's house, with Vida in tow, to drop something at off. Dan and I stood at a safe distance from each another. Under normal circumstances, if you love someone, you hug and kiss the other person. But now things have taken an abrupt 180-degree turn. If you love someone you CANNOT hug and kiss the other person. Does that now mean we should embrace and smooch our enemies? The mind boggles.
Anyway, dogs don’t know from social distancing. All Vida knew is that she hadn't seen Pantera in a long time. So she did what dogs do best: she ran right up to him and stuck her nose on his butt to get a good whiff and assure herself that this black kitty was indeed her good buddy, Pan.
Amazingly, Pantera did not hiss, swipe a paw at Vida, or walk away. He merely put up with the abuse, although his facial expression and body posture clearly were screaming, “Dogs are so disgusting! But I’ll submit because it’s been a long time and I kind of miss this dopey creature.”
Pantera is right. Dogs are disgusting. After all, they lick their own undercarriage. And they’ll lick yours, too, if they can get close enough.
Dogs also eat the poo of any other species, not to mention their own. It’s true. I have seen Vida drop a load, turn around, sniff it, and then attempt to sample it. Erghh.
As gross as that seems, scientists tell us that sense of smell is how dogs understand the world. “While humans primarily depend on their vision, dogs use both sight and smell to assess their surroundings and communicate. People spend more time interpreting visual data than olfactory information. Dogs are just the opposite” (Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, “How Dogs Use Smell to Perceive the World,” https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/how-dogs-use-smell-to-perceive-the-world).
The world to dogs is a wonderland of scents. According to Dr. Buzhardt, “Dogs devote lots of brain power to interpreting smells. They have more than 100 million sensory receptor sites in the nasal cavity as compared to 6 million in people, and the area of the canine brain devoted to analyzing odors is about 40 times larger than the comparable part of the human brain. In fact, it’s been estimated that dogs can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than people”
This may explain why, when I take Vida for a walk, she spends a great deal of her time sniffing the ground and responding to what she sniffs by peeing on it or near it.
All dogs engage in this “marking” activity, something that was obnoxiously true of Gremlin, my 18-20-pound terrier. Gremmy was so alpha that she would pee ON another dog’s mark just to prove who was boss (or so it seemed).
Thus, I have come to believe that marking territory with pee actually is a form of communication and intimidation. And, while humans only recently have attempted to do this through social media, dogs have it down to a science and have been doing it since… well, since they were dogs.
I call this activity “Doggie Peebook.” The following is what I think goes on in a typical Doggie Peebook post:
Dog #1: Hi! My name is Tootsie. I’m a spayed female who loves treats and squeaky toys.
Dog #2: I’m Frank. I’m a 7-year-old, neutered hound mix who enjoys chasing rabbits and hates squirrels. Squirrels are so offensive!
Dog #3 You don’t know sh*t, Frank. Squirrels aren’t half as offensive as birds. I hate birds. Signed, Bruno.
Dog #1: Don’t get your hackles up, Bruno. Frank was just stating his opinion.
Dog #3: Don’t tell me what to do, Tootsie. I can take you down.
Dog #1: Like to see you try, Bruno. You smell like a chihuahua. I’m a German shepherd. I could make a snack outta you.
Dog #3: Hey, Tootsie, I just peed all over your first post. You’re deleted, loooser!
Dog #2: Got some news for you, Bruno. I just peed all over YOUR post. Deleted, baby! Who da dog now?
Dog#1: You da dog, Frank!
Hmmm… maybe dogs are more like humans than I previously thought…
Whether or not Vida is disgusting, I do love to talk to her. I do it all the time. A friend recently let me know that talking to my dog was all right as long as Vida doesn't start replying. But, seriously, Vida has developed into a such dang good conversationalist, why stop now?
Anyway, whether you are sheltering alone or with humans, dogs, cats, or any other critter, I hope you’re hanging in there and staying well. We’ll get through this. We may not be sane by the time that happens, but we’ll get through it. (As you can see, I’ve already lost the battle.)
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder