Directions on the North Shore of Boston

Thank God for GPS. Ginger and I took a short trip the other day because I didn’t want to leave her home alone. She sat in her crate next to me, I plugged in the address, and away we went.  I enjoy driving around the Greater Boston Area now so much more now that my car has a built-in GPS unit.

 

When we first moved here before I had a phone or car with GPS, I either relied on the Street Atlas of Metro Boston—Eastern Massachusetts or turned to my friends for help. The atlas was informative, but tricky for me to use because each town is represented with its own page. Inevitably, I’d end up cursing the editors for their decision to arrange these towns in alphabetical order because I’d drive off the edge of the page. The town I had just entered might be 15 pages away. Flipping pages and driving safely don’t mix, so I either had to stop and look up where we were, or guess what to do next.

 

Asking friends could be equally frustrating or entertaining, depending on the day I was having. All my friends and acquaintances are very giving people and always offered numerous suggestions on how to get around the area. A friendly debate would ensue on the best route. Traffic patterns and construction being what they are around here means that the time of day you leave point A to travel to point B can mean the difference between your trip taking 25 minutes or 45. After settling on the best route, a friend would give me directions something like this:

 

“Drive toward Lynn. Take a left right before you get to Mary, Mother of God Church. (Really?) But before that, make sure that you are NOT in the right lane because you’ll be forced to turn on that one-way street where the construction is. (Thanks for the tip.)  Go straight for a while. (A mile? A block?) When you come to the intersection where I had that fender bender last year, you’ll see a Dunkin Donuts. (Isn’t there a Dunkin Donuts on every corner?) Don’t take a left there, but drive to the next street and take a left. (Okay . . .) You’ll know that you are in the right place when you see Papa Gino’s. (Who?) Keep going. (Where?) Take the third exit off the traffic circle before my uncle’s insurance agency. (Good man, I’m sure.) If you miss that exit, just keep going around. Then go straight. (?) When you come to Thomas Middle Initial Insert an Irish Surname Here Square (What?), take the left that is kind of straight ahead. Not the really left one, but the other left that veers sort of right further down the road. (Help me.) The AOH is a little brown building on the right, set down from the road; you can’t miss it. (See you there soon, no doubt.)”

 

Now that I’ve been on the North Shore for nearly 14 years, I know my way around pretty well. My dog-eared map book doesn’t live in my car anymore. And if I do get a little confused, I consult my dashboard GPS. I feel like a genuine native.

 

You don’t have GPS? Well, drive past where they’re resurfacing the road near the Stop ‘N Shop. Make sure you’re in the second left lane that goes straight not left, and then merge right as soon as you can. The traffic circle that used to be there is now a light. There’s usually a truck parked with its flashers on across from the pub. You’ll know it when you see it . . .

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Our Trip to Connecticut and An Evil Fungus

Ginger with Shaved LegEvil Mushroom Backyard Inhabitant

Ginger and I went on an adventure in which we traveled to Connecticut, stayed with extended family, and consumed fun food. She behaved herself during the two-hour car trip, and settled in my parents’ house immediately. Everything was diverting and relaxing until one little fungus with disreputable intentions, who was dead set upon ruining our excursion, reared its ugly head very early on Friday morning. During our second outing, Ginger stole around behind me and quickly wolfed down said mushroom in the backyard.

 

Not being a mycologist, I could not identify the mushroom in question. I do know, however, that most mushrooms are harmless, but a couple of percent are deadly. As it turns out, quite a few more will make you rather sick. Several Internet searches and phone calls to two vets later, and Ginger, my mother, and I were on our way to a local animal hospital. We arrived there within 20 minutes of her ingesting the mushroom.

 

First, the receptionist called animal poison control, and then the technician talked at length with the voice on the other end. Next, they whisked Ginger into the exam room, where we could hear her whining and moaning when the technician gave her a shot that would induce vomiting. Since she is still so small, and it had been by now almost an hour since she ingested the mushroom, we had to make the quick decision whether to approve further treatment. So after examining her vomitus (yes, there I was with a wooden probe inspecting partially digested puppy kibble, grass, hair, a bit of paper towel, and stomach acid looking for the wicked mushroom cap), I decided to let her stay the day.

 

Poor Ginger had to visit with the vet until 6:00 p.m. so that she could be monitored and given charcoal. The look of utter betrayal on her face as I abandoned her in a cage was pitiful. No stories of how the greyhound in the cage beneath her was in much worse shape since he had consumed four pounds of raisins the day before made her feel any better. I was a traitor, pure and simple.

 

A heart-stopping bill and four days later, and everything is almost back to normal. She is still taking some medication, but her poop is no longer charcoal black and sticky like tar. (That was NOT fun to pick up.) There is a little shaved spot on her leg where they gave her a shot and an IV, but otherwise she seems to have completely forgotten about the incident. Most likely the mushroom she ate was perfectly harmless, but I just couldn’t take that chance.

The Lost Art of Finding the Lost

The lost is found.

The lost is found.

I can find things. No, I mean I am really good at finding things. At least I used to be.

Everyone in my household depends on me to locate their personal effects. I could be away running some errands and pick up a call from my husband who wants to know if I’ve seen his (fill in whatever here). The weird thing about it is that I usually do know where it is. My children will claim not to know where some article of clothing or a book is, and I can march down to their rooms and find it sometimes within seconds.

When queried about lost items, my responses are usually something like these:

“Your thumb drive is on the floor next to the nightstand’s foot closest to the bed.”

“I saw your book under your laptop on the side table next to the striped chair in the living room.”

“Your sun glasses are on the bookshelf, second shelf down.” And/or: “If you mean the other pair, it is on your dresser next to your wallet.”

When my family members express amazement that once again I have located something they swear they couldn’t find if their lives depended on it, I shrug and say something like, “You know I’m good at finding things.”  I’d rather retort, “How could you NOT know where it is, YOU left it there. In fact, it’s been there for 5 DAYS. I’ve walked past it at LEAST 100 times and so have YOU.” Of course, in the interest of family harmony, I do not express these thoughts. Usually.

They think my talent is freakish. To me it’s normal and to be expected given that our house is pretty small, and I spend an inordinate amount of time here. My husband claims that he is not the only male who demonstrates this lack of ability, and besides that, I must have magical powers. My gift works like this: someone asks about an object and a mental image pops into my brain of the item and its setting. No magic involved, just a bit of undiagnosed OCD.

I have thought seriously about putting this skill on my LinkedIn account and on my resume. Where would I list such expertise? Under “Weird Stuff That I’m Good at, But No One Will Ever Pay Me for”? Perhaps in my cover letter I should compose a short appeal like, “I look forward to hearing from you soon about this position, and if you grant me an interview, I’ll find that favorite pen you misplaced in your office.” The job market being what it is, maybe my resume will then rise to the top of the pile. Why is it that employers value SEO capabilities so much more than my special competency? After all, they’re kind of the same thing, aren’t they?

The entropy in the household has increased significantly since Ginger became part of the family. Disorder rules, and I can’t seem to remember where everything is. It took several minutes for me to locate her favorite ball. In fact, no image flashed in my brain when I went to look for the toy. I found this occurrence quite disconcerting, and was so relieved when I found the ball under the striped chair.

I have developed the following hypotheses to explain my declining skill level:

1. I am so sleep-deprived after over two weeks of insufficient slumber each night that I spend most of the day in a haze of subpar cognition.

2. My finding skill has been replaced in my neuroanatomy by an obsession with puppy elimination and a nascent mental map of every spot that she has employed for such purposes.

3. When I walk through the house, I am looking down to avoid stepping on her (see “Canine Foot Fetish and Other Topics I thought I’d Never Write About”), and my brain is no longer registering the surrounding items and their whereabouts.

4. Puppies are like toddlers in their ability to generate chaos.

5. It is really hard to find stuff while holding a puppy, who is trying to bite my head, when I crouch down to look under the couch.

6. I am getting old.

After considerable thought, I reject all of the above (especially the last one) and will practice a little role reversal with my family members instead.

“Hey kids, have either of you seen my . . . ?

On Ants and Other Pets

Kevin and Ginger
I have always loved animals. All kinds of animals. At one point when I was a kid, I wanted an ant farm. Yes, you read that right. An ant farm. I envisioned myself spending hours watching them as they scurried to and fro carrying food, pupae, and eggs. The farm would be large and have glass walls. There would be hundreds of productive workers, and I would be in control.

When I broached the subject with my mother, she looked at me as though I were clearly insane and no doubt was wondering how I could have possibly emerged from her womb. You see, she was pretty, stylish, and talented. She made my wedding dress from scratch with no pattern and sang soprano in the church choir. She was feminine and knew what shoes to wear. She belly danced and made crafts as hobbies, and her house was always clean despite housing our numerous pets, five children, my father, and my grandfather within its walls.

I figured, why not an ant farm? I reasoned she would surely appreciate the value of studying a genuine ant society right in my own room. I would be able to see all of the activities of the colony’s industrious inhabitants. I would observe these Formicidae, take copious notes, and discover something really important. My mother, (voted most attractive and most versatile in her high school class) was no fool, and informed me, in no uncertain terms and without further elaboration, that she was not going to buy me an ant farm to decorate my room with. And she went back to cooking dinner.

Frustrated, but still determined, I returned to my book on ants (obviously, what else should I be reading?) Not too many days after that conversation, I stood in the driveway watching the insect wildlife when I saw a huge, very obviously gravid, black ant lumbering across my path. The solution to my dilemma had presented itself.  Assuredly, the source of my mother’s objection was the expense of purchasing the farm. If I provided my own queen laden with eggs and made my own enclosure, she would not only capitulate, but be thrilled with my ingenuity. I captured it in my cupped hands and ran inside. Frantically, searching for the perfect container in the kitchen cupboards and finding none, I ran upstairs to search for something suitable. First, however, I stored my ant in the kitchen sink, by removing the dishes and then plugging the drain. The heavy queen was unable to scale the slippery walls.

Desperately, I rummaged through my and then my brothers’ rooms looking for something that would properly accommodate the most awesome ant farm science had ever known. Nothing seemed like it would work. I peeked downstairs and saw that my ant had not escaped, and continued to search. Just a few minutes later, I heard a loud exclamation and the swooshing noise of the sink spray hose. Panicked, I ran to the kitchen; my mother looked at me and said, “You will never believe what I found in the sink. The biggest ant I have ever seen. That creature must have been almost an inch long.”  Crestfallen, I explained that the queen had been the proposed progenitor of my ant project. She was to have been the Eve that would have informed my intellect with knowledge on ant-kind.

“You brought a queen carpenter ant into my house?” was her simple response. Seeing the look of disbelief on my mother’s face, I slowly began to realize that she did not share my excitement about the ant farm. I think that I must have looked quite pathetic then because she suddenly began apologizing while explaining that carpenter ants are generally not welcome guests in houses made of wood. (Who knew?) Feeling a tad guilty, she distracted me with a chore or a story. I don’t remember which.

I look back on this and other instances now, and I realize how truly indulgent my parents were when it came to their children and pets. At various times my parents’ house and yard sheltered three dogs, seven cats, seventeen rabbits (not all at once), many tens of fish, and a gerbil. Not to mention the hundreds of birds my many bird feeders attracted or the frogs my brothers brought home in buckets after their adventures in the woods.

So did we deprive our children by only having one cockatiel, three parakeets, one hamster, and a 16-gallon tank of fish? Or perhaps my parents truly overindulged my siblings and me. Either way, this spring finally seemed the right time to welcome a dog into our midst.

My son lobbied for a dog for about three months when he was young. I seriously researched dog ownership and decided instead on a cockatiel, who turned out to be a wonderful, smart, and loving addition to our family. Fast forward 10 years later, and I had to break the news to my son that my husband and I had decided to become dog owners, and that we had already chosen the puppy and a name. Preparing for an explosion of pent-up emotion regarding his childhood’s being deprived of a dog, I broke the news to him while sitting in the RER in Paris as we rode to Versailles. He was surprisingly calm and accepting. So at long last, he has a dog. We all do; and everyone is thrilled, and she is settling in quite nicely. Somewhat like the carpenter ants that the exterminator discovered in my house siding a few weeks back. I finally have my ant farm after all.

Twenty Reasons Ginger Is Good for Us or the Zen of Owning a Puppy

Zen GingerRecently, someone found my blog by searching for “why is ginger good for you.” No kidding. This search string made my day for two reasons. First, someone actually Googled a topic that resulted in my blog showing up. Yay! (I Googled this phrase myself, and my blog’s post was at the top of the fourth page.) Second, Ginger IS good for you or us, I should say. Below is a list of reasons why Ginger has been good for our family (nutritional benefits of ginger root aside, of course.)

1. Ginger makes us smile and laugh every day. Laughter has proven health benefits.

2. In bending down to scoop her up, pet her, or put her leash on, I do at least 50 leg squats per day. My quads and hamstrings thank her.

3. Add five more legs squats to the above for poop patrol.

4. It’s hard to take myself too seriously when I have a bag of poop swinging from my hand.

5. We are increasing our pulmonary capacities when we run around the yard with her.

6. More of our friends want to come over to visit so that they can see her, I mean us.

7. She might help my son get a job. My son has hypothesized that he will be offered the super competitive internship he applied for if he brings Ginger along to the interview. Her charm will so distract the interviewers that they will offer him the internship on the spot. That strategy could work . . .

8. We hope to make new friends because all kinds of people come up to us to comment on how cute she is.

9. There are few more soothing activities after a stressful day than cuddling a sleeping puppy.

10. The other day, my niece unexpectedly wanted to participate in FaceTime when I was on the phone with my sister, so she could see the puppy, I mean me.

11. I have more to talk about with other dog owners. Trading tips on house training is a great conversation starter. (Suddenly, I am transported back in time to my children’s toddler years and talk of Pull-Ups®.)

12. My children are offering to help with the chores more, if the chores involve Ginger, that is.

13. I need to sweep the kitchen floor less frequently since Ginger is so good at helping me keep it clean.

14. Ginger is helping us to bond as a family. Because Ginger is at a stage where she always needs to be watched, we are forced to spend more time together at home.

15. We love Ginger, and she loves us.

16. Ginger is thrilled to see me, no matter how I look, feel, or am behaving. She wants to be with me that much. Amazing.

17. She helps me find time to write, something I’ve wanted to do for years.

18. She contributes ideas for my writing just by being herself.

19. We take pride in our puppy’s progress. For instance, she is no longer harbors any suspicions about her food bowl (see “On How Food Bowls Can Be Evil”) and knows three commands.

20. Our new dog has helped us live in the present more. How perfectly Zen of her.

Canine Foot Fetish and Other Topics I thought I’d Never Write About

Canine Foot FetishPuppies are simple creatures. Their needs are basic. Eating. Sleeping. Pooping. Playing. Biting your feet. Smelling your feet. Licking your feet. And generally, being under foot.

My feet in particular are a source of great fascination for Ginger. She licks them; she tries to bite them, and she falls asleep on top of them several times a day.  Despite their being supremely unattractive, Ginger loves my feet. Bunions, spider veins, cracked heels, and ugly toenails notwithstanding, she fixates on them.

Is it possible that Ginger is trying to teach me something? Perhaps, I should begin celebrating my feet like other women by wearing strappy sandals and decorative toe rings. Rather than burying them in the sand at the beach, I’ll grace my tootsies with bright pink polish in expensive flip-flops. At work I’ll brave four-inch sling-backs with no stockings. After twenty years of hiding my feet, is it time to release them from their sensible shoe prisons?

Of course, she is also rather interested in the other feet in the house, and I don’t think that she’s trying to persuade my husband to wear designer Italian shoes to this week’s scientific conference or my daughter to sport Manolo Blahniks to her next Zumba workout.

So does her obsession with feet stem from her disadvantaged viewpoint? I must admit upon first bringing her home, I was somewhat underwhelmed by Ginger’s diminutive stature. She is a tiny thing that I fear I will step on and maim. I walk through the house with downcast eyes to ensure that I am not about to crush her fragile puppy body. On the other hand, from Ginger’s perspective, our bodies tower over her world, dominating the landscape like enormous redwoods.  To make matters worse, the house is full of potentially insurmountable obstacles. An eight-inch threshold is a bluff requiring grappling hooks and a rope to scale. A stool is not a boost, but something to hide under. She is a pocket-sized being in a world of giants.

Are our feet reassuring and reeking (see “It’s a Smelly, Smelly World”) comforts in a still alien environment? After all, they are on her level and smell strongly of us. Even when they are only passing through the room, perhaps our feet are the most heartening aspects of her surroundings.

I suppose we have to abide her foot fetish for the time being, knowing that eventually, she will outgrow her need to hover around our ankles. In the meantime, we’ll step gingerly around Ginger.

My House Has a Force Field and Other Things I Hadn’t Noticed

Force field dog

There are quite a few really fascinating features about my home that I had never noticed before Ginger came to live with us. After 13 years of continuous occupancy, I thought I knew everything there was to know about our cozy abode, but apparently not. Here are just a few attributes Ginger has enlightened me about.

 

1. The hallway houses a force field. “(Next to the force field are less magical objects, like the door to the coat closet and a framed picture.) Not once have I had trouble passing through that space. Not once have my children asked me to disengage the force field so that they could get to the bathroom. Ginger, however, discovered it immediately. She is such an observant pooch. I always wanted a force field like they have on Star Trek. So cool.

 

2. My couch tastes good. I sit on this couch almost every day. We have all napped on this couch from time to time. My children have played board games on this couch. It has occupied a place in three consecutive living rooms as we moved from one home to another. Who knew that a sofa would be so great for noshing? Maybe, I’ll serve it as an appetizer at my next dinner party. “Forget the stuffed mushrooms with the black bean salsa, the couch leg is to DIE for.”

 

3. Like the Serengeti, my front yard is a vast savannah of mystery with danger lurking in every shadow. Vast plains of verdant grass wave in the wind. Majestic birds wing through the trees. Furtive creatures scuttle in the bush. So why have I been so embarrassed about the weeds and unmulched beds? I need to promote guided safari tours.

 

4. The most cherished and valuable object in our possession is a frayed, blue rag. The remnants of a once absorbent towel, it is now carried in Ginger’s mouth and heart forever. How is it that I haven’t more closely guarded this treasure until now?

 

5. The kitchen garbage and its contents are worthy of in-depth study. Foolishly, I have been discarding extremely noteworthy and valuable specimens that the canine scientific establishment wishes to investigate further. Ginger will publish her findings in the The Journal of Irreproducible Results soon. (If only!)

 

6. There’s a skating rink in my family room. What I thought was a hardwood floor, is seemingly the perfect spot for axels, Salchows, and sit spins.  

 

7. Ants in the house do not taste good. Well, I figured as much.

Coming Home and the Lone Ranger

Now Ginger (the wonder dog) had a rough start when I picked her up. Even though she had peed on cue at the breeder’s request when I arrived, I decided to put her on the grass one more time before cooping her up in a crate for the 1.5-hour drive to my home. Bad move. She took off like a sprinter when the gun fires. Down the edge of the driveway, around the wall, and into the backyard, she was determined to leave her would-be kidnapper in the dust. Weaving in and out of toys and lawn furniture, she made for the doggy door set up for the comings and goings of the pups and their mothers. Whining and yelping all the while, Ginger made such a commotion, that the dogs inside began charging out to see who the intruder was. I’m sure they would have saved her from me and my nefarious intentions had the gate at the bottom of the ramp not been closed.

 

With her rescuers’ efforts thwarted, I was finally successful in scooping her up. She whimpered all the way to the car. She whined in the crate. I backed down the driveway; she yelped. I pulled onto the street; she cried. Nothing would calm her down until I put my fingers thru the door to let her sniff them. The problem was the crate rested on the back seat. With one hand on the wheel, and my other arm twisted behind me such that I thought I might dislocate my shoulder, I wound my way thru the rural roads of New Hampshire. This technique worked pretty well until I began to merge onto I-95.

 

I know that you local readers know what I mean when I say I-95 through southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts is a daunting motorway. It’s not that the road doesn’t provide enough lanes. (Most of the time anyway, except the part in Canton, where it narrows to one lane that makes a hair-raising 270-degree looping turn. The first time I drove that part of the highway, I thought I was going to die.) It’s not even the ridiculous number of badly designed entrances and exits, especially along Route 128. It’s that I-95 is so busy ALL of the time, and all of the other cars seemed to be peopled by individuals with passive-aggressive disorders.

 

Drivers on I-95 yield to no one; rarely use their blinkers when changing lanes, which is constantly; tap their breaks randomly; tailgate the car in front of them; and don’t consider themselves speeding until their speedometers exceed 85 miles per hour. Driving on this portion of one of the premier roads of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System is like riding bumper cars at the state fairgrounds. Your heart is in your throat most of time, and you can’t stop thinking about how you wish you’d stood in line for the giant Ferris wheel instead.

 

So there I was looking over my left shoulder trying to merge between two trucks, with the fingers of my right hand wriggling thru the crate door in the back seat. This was not going to work. As soon as I withdrew my hand, the ear-piercing wailing began. For someone who had so recently seen me as a lawless scoundrel abducting her from a loving home, Ginger’s behavior seemed a tad surprising. Was I the Lone Ranger dressed in a powder blue rodeo outfit or the villain dressed in black? Hi-ho Santa Fe away!  We successfully merged onto I-95.

 

Fifteen minutes later, Ginger was cried out. Exhausted, she fell asleep, resigned to leave herself in the hands of fate as well as those of the clearly mad, middle-aged woman in the front seat. The rest of the ride was uneventful. As she slept, I navigated our way home.

 

I wonder whether The Lone Ranger movie has any dogs in it? I must let Ginger watch it on On Demand.

On the Need for Emergency Backup Children

Joey at Hammonasset Beach

Alex M. is our emergency backup son. Let me clarify. He is actually our son’s best friend from childhood. He has always worn the moniker of EBS proudly. When called upon, he would serve, he said. Good to know.

He and Kevin, my firstborn, have been best buddies since middle school. They survived Children’s Island Camp, attended the local charter school, and commuted to Catholic high school together. They dated girls who were friends, and they spent a great deal of their time in Alex’s basement. You see, Alex’s parents are wise, and they knew if they had a cool basement hideaway, their teenagers and their friends would hang downstairs. What better way to know what is going on than to lure the juveniles to gather right beneath your feet?

Our house is not cool. It is small and has no basement. With its unimpressive TV, lack of a decent backyard, and little rooms, our home offered no place for the teenagers to retreat to. Hence, they did not hang here. As a result, I had to rely on spies to find out what was going on with my son. Unlike my daughter, who divulged her social and academic particulars more willingly during our mother-daughter tête-à-têtes, my son kept his own counsel during his adolescent years.

Both Kevin and Alex are home from college working for the summer. The other day Alex came over to meet Ginger. Noting that Kevin and Ginger have the same hair color, Alex informed Ginger that he was the well-established emergency backup child and she had better not move in on his territory no matter how cute she is.

Are my intentions really that transparent? Four years ago, my sister-in-law adopted a black lab when her last child, a daughter, went off to college. Joey is Ginger’s cousin, and he is a big, drooling, loving, and wonderful dog of inelegance. What lab is anything but? In most respects, he is nothing like my niece, who is blonde, slender, beautiful, intelligent, and graceful. Regardless, he is a substitute child, who gives and receives love in spades. That has been clear since the day my sister-in-law started talking about him.

And, yes, I must be upfront with myself, so is Ginger. There, I said it.

It’s a Smelly, Smelly World

smelly sock loveI have been wearing the same pair of pants for four days straight. Before you decide that I am either a hoarder or demented and stop reading my blog forever, consider this. Dogs love to sniff everything. According to a well-known dog expert, dogs rely on their noses first. All dog lovers know this; that’s why you see them waiting patiently as their dogs pause at a bush or telephone pole to smell the last dog’s deposit. A former employer of mine called this dog-world communication, “pee-mail.” You see, or should I say “smell,” the world differently when you are controlled by your nose.

For a short while before I began teaching at the local university, I worked for a local pet service company. I loved that job. My clients adored me. I know this because they enthusiastically greeted me every time I walked in the door. As soon as my key clinked in the lock, I could hear their nails clicking on the floor—the cadence becoming more frenetic as I turned the knob.  Each client had a slightly different greeting. Some ran in circles while barking excitedly, some sat expectantly, and some started wagging their metronome-like tails so hard, their backsides swung in unison to music only the dog could hear. (When is the last time your client jumped straight up higher than his own head when you walked into his office? Hmmm?)

What every pup had in common was a need to smell me to make sure that I was who they thought I was. Was I still emanating those same aromatics as yesterday? Were my pheromones mixed in the same combinations? What volatiles floated around my feet and face? Was I truly who I claimed to be? To aid in this canine ID process, I wore the same dirty coat and gloves every day. (A habit I’m sure certain humans found questionable.)  I tried to wear a pair of jeans at least two days in a row. And the dogs loved me for it. I smelled; they sniffed. Could a human-canine friendship be built on a better foundation than that? I found that they listened better and obeyed my commands because they felt secure with me. (And for all of you about to close your browser with an, “eww,” not to worry, I put on fresh clothing when I reentered the human world.)

I can relate to this need. Before my son was born, I had a remarkable sense of smell. I inherited this talent from my mother who could detect curdling milk before the carton was opened. I knew my mother was baking not by the aroma of cookies in the oven, but first by the smell a bag of flour gives off when it’s opened. When I sat in my cubicle at work, I determined my coworkers’ activities by the odors filling the air around me. I noted that Joanne had ranch dressing on her salad, Neal just got back from his cigarette break, and Julie had opened her bottle of Wite-Out®. Assuming that everyone mapped their world with the help of his nose, I took this gift for granted.

Then my son was born, and I unwittingly surrendered his infant person to daycare. The latter are incubi for viral plague. Disease lingers in every corner while babies and toddlers crawl thru pestilence. It’s not the children’s fault or the business owners’. That’s just the way it is when you have that many children occupying a small space. For three months, Kevin brought home every microorganism that stole its way into the building. He would sniffle. I would cough and hack and blow my nose until my upper lip was a crusty mess. My coworkers finally turned me away the day I showed up looking like a dying vampire with conjunctivitis. No sleep and five simultaneous infections will do that to you. Three medications and one week later, I was finally well again. Except for one thing. I could no longer detect those subtle or lingering scents. I never realized how much I took them for granted until they were gone.

So if Ginger wants to smell my dirty socks so that she can fall asleep or bury her head in the pungent pant legs I’ve been wearing for four days, I will support her. Smells are reassuring and wonderful; she knows this like only a dog can.