When I arrived home from work last night, my husband had finished most of our Christmas wrapping and so, I sat down next to the tree and looked at all the beautiful gifts.
Sensi was, as always, at my side. However, while I picked up and admired all sorts of different presents, he was interested only in a few — his.
No, we didn’t point them out to him. We didn’t say anything to him. We’ve kept everything very low key because there’s no point in getting him all excited when Christmas is still about a week away.
It doesn’t matter though. He knows which ones are his gifts.
He went around to each box, sniffed it, wagged his tail, cocked his head and gave me that look.
“It’s for me. I know it’s for me,” he seemed to say, his eyes glistening and barely audible whines coming out of his mouth. “So can I open it? Huh? Huh? Can I open it?”
Keep in mind that my husband and I took great care to ensure that Sensi never saw any of gifts ahead of time — he was put in a separate room while I brought them into the house and all his gifts were kept hidden behind closed doors.
When he realized there would be no opening of presents, he laid down beside the tree, rested his head on the carpet and let out a big sigh. He laid by the tree for quite a while like that.
I’m reading this new book called “Power of the Dog: the things your dog can do that you can’t” by Les Krantz and it led me to reflect for a moment about how Sensi knew which gifts were his.
The book goes into detail about great powers of the dog, their incredible scent included. It also talks about a dog’s eyesight being different than humans.
You’ll have to read the book for a better explanation than I can recount here, but basically, the same physical elements that allow dogs to see movement in the dark also restrict them from being able to clearly pinpoint objects in their immediate vicinity — things like toys, no doubt.
So if your dog can’t really see that bone he’s chewing on or stuffed animal he carries around, how can he so clearly identify it? Scent is the answer for this one, folks.
My guess as to how Sensi knew which gifts were his, then, is by their scent. Certainly, the Nylabone dental chew bone I got him may have been easily identifiable — perhaps it smelled similar to Nylabone toys he’s received in the past.
But what about the stuffed animals I picked out from Salvation Army? These items probably belonged to unknown children before him. Perhaps they sat around in attics or basements for years before being donated to the store. There were probably hundreds of scents associated with these items — kid smells, house smells, store smells and more — none of which would be familiar to him.
As the book explains, dogs are able to smell the tiniest of molecules. The book uses, for example, walking into a bakery. We smell the scents of baking bread, muffins and icing while our dogs would instead smell the yeast, eggs and different types of sugars used to make the products.
On that note, perhaps what Sensi was smelling and recognizing as something for him was not the objects’ most recent scents — human handling, house smells, store smell, etc., — but instead the fibers used to make the stuffed animals, the different felts used to make a nose or plastic materials commonly used in making stuffed animal eyes.
Who really knows. All I can say, without a doubt, is that Sensi was able to identify the four boxes that were his and showed no interest in the dozens of other boxes, despite the fact that they all had pretty much the same outward appearance.
I often say on this blog that if we only knew more about our dogs, we could stop buying into all these warm and fuzzy but vastly untrue myths about our four-legged companions. If we really took the time to learn the truth about dogs, we could simply appreciate them for being the amazing animals that they truly are.