Saturday, August 22, 2015

That going to the dogs smell

We live on a gravel township road. You can tell by the constant accumulation of dust in the house that we get more traffic than I'd like. Every several weeks the grader comes by to smooth out the surface ripples. Despite all of this, plus the recent rains, our dogs find more fascinating smells in the road's surface than I can begin to understand. I can neither begin to envision what they're smelling nor how the scents are holding long enough to attract the intensity of attention they get. But then, I'm not a dog, nor do I speak doggish well enough to discuss the situation with Franco or SiSi.

a gravel country road, full of smells?
a gravel country road, full of smells?
Photo by J. Harrington

Because it has an "other" side to get to, our road is often crossed by whitetail deer, wild turkeys, cottontails and squirrels, less often by turtles and snakes and an occasional black bear. Based on the tracks I see from time to time, the deer and turkeys enjoy a periodic stroll along the road in addition to crossing it. Not being a canid, I have assumed that these smells are common enough that they wouldn't create the ecstasy of sniffing, snuffing and huffing I sometimes get to watch after our walk has been brought up short by whatever scent, smell, aroma or fume has attracted a dog's attention. Clearly my assumption is wrong, plus I failed to remember how I behave when confronted by the aromas of some of my favorite foods. The other point I don't understand is if or whether dogs have a mental image of what they're smelling. The Sunday smell of someone frying chicken immediately brings to my mind the crispy, crunchy perfectly brown color of fried chicken skin. If I smell a skunk, I picture a black and white striped pussy cat creature. What do you suppose is going through what passes for a dog's mind while he or she is running around, nose down, in very tight but unconcentric circles? Do you think he or she nose what's going on?

Dogs Are Shakespearean, Children Are Strangers

By Delmore Schwartz 

Dogs are Shakespearean, children are strangers.
Let Freud and Wordsworth discuss the child,
Angels and Platonists shall judge the dog,
The running dog, who paused, distending nostrils,
Then barked and wailed; the boy who pinched his sister,   
The little girl who sang the song from Twelfth Night,   
As if she understood the wind and rain,
The dog who moaned, hearing the violins in concert.   
—O I am sad when I see dogs or children!
For they are strangers, they are Shakespearean.

Tell us, Freud, can it be that lovely children   
Have merely ugly dreams of natural functions?   
And you, too, Wordsworth, are children truly   
Clouded with glory, learned in dark Nature?   
The dog in humble inquiry along the ground,   
The child who credits dreams and fears the dark,   
Know more and less than you: they know full well   
Nor dream nor childhood answer questions well:   
You too are strangers, children are Shakespearean.

Regard the child, regard the animal,   
Welcome strangers, but study daily things,   
Knowing that heaven and hell surround us,   
But this, this which we say before we’re sorry,   
This which we live behind our unseen faces,   
Is neither dream, nor childhood, neither   
Myth, nor landscape, final, nor finished,   
For we are incomplete and know no future,   
And we are howling or dancing out our souls   
In beating syllables before the curtain:   
We are Shakespearean, we are strangers.

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