That black-haired beauty and I*

Every once in a great while I call my wife and let her know that I’m out with a dark long-haired beauty. You know, it helps keep her on her toes – don’t want her to get any ideas. It’s good she knows that there are other fish in the ocean, and that we ‘mature’ men need younger companionship occasionally.

Of course, this is all tongue-in-cheek and good fun, because my wife knows as well as I that the ‘black-haired beauty’ is our dog, Arwen. She’s a cross between a black Lab and a golden retriever and she looks it. She’s got the ‘golden’ face and hair (I was really hoping when she was a pup that she would have the shorter ‘lab’ hair), but the broad Labrador build. Her distinquishing features are several tuffs of white hair – one on her chin, another on her chest, and some on her stomach. If you look real closely you can also see ‘golden’ flecks in the fur on her front paws and legs.

Arwen and I take a good many long walks together and today while we were (actually I should say, while ‘she was’) exploring our neighborhood for the umpteenth time I thought about how different her perspective of this world truly is from mine. For one thing, by far her most dominant form of investigation is her nose – and she has a good one coming from two hunting dog breeds. As says, “Dogs can sense odors at concentrations nearly 100 million times lower than humans can.”

So as I was watching her sniffing and snuffling I realized that in her world illumination came through her nose more often than not and probably could be broken into several major categories:

What’s on the breeze: I especially notice this behavior when she rides in the car with me with the window down. Arwen sticks her black snout up to the window (not out) and sniffs. Not sure what she understands from what she smells, but it must be important to her because as soon as the window goes down, up goes the snout.

The ‘leavings’ of other creatures: most particularly of other dogs, but Arwen has all those hunting instincts and she knows fair game when she sniffs it. Hence if I gave her free rein she would be ‘on the chase’ of rabbit, squirrel, deer, pheasant, and other scents. Interestingly she did learn eventually during her youth that birds fly and hence are not of much interest as to an all out chase, but then, pheasants tend to stay on the ground longer than many other birds, so they are worth pursuing. [She’s even brought me some gently in her mouth – when she catches creatures, she doesn’t hurt them, at least not on purpose, she wants to play with them or show them off to ‘Dad’ or ‘Mom’.]

Food: Oh, yes! Food is king. Anything edible can be sniffed out and a dog has a wide, wide range of what he/she considers edible. Unfortunately we often do not even know what she has managed to uncover and get into her stomach before we can react. If it smells edible to Arwen, it is, and down-the-hatch it goes.

I’m not quite sure what her eyes tell her, though there is no doubt that she recognizes other dogs even at a hundred paces with the wind in the wrong direction for that powerful nose to help. I haven’t quite figured that one out either, because as you know dogs come in an incredible number of shapes and sizes. You would think there would be some doubt when a vastly different breed shows on the horizon, but there never is. Dog is dog, and Arwen knows the difference instantly.

It certainly can be fascinating taking a long walk with a dog. When you pay attention you start to learn things about life and how to look at it. They can begin to teach you how perceptions can be so vastly different depending on your starting point and orientation. Take a tip from a dark-haired beauty – there’s a good bit that goes on right under your nose!

P.S. So what does this have to do with difficult people? Maybe its not a bad idea to every once in awhile to take a step back and try to see the world from another perspective. No, I can’t get into my dark haired beauty’s head and truly understand what she gets out of all her snufflings and snifflings, but I can certainly appreciate that she sees the world in a vastly different sense than I do. It’s worth thinking about the next time you’re in a difficult situation. What’s the other person bringing to the table?

*with a nod and hat-tip to Kris Kristofferson


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