This morning I needed to take my car in to my mechanic. When I do this, my dogs ride along with me and we walk back through town. We forego our usual walk in the woods and have an urban walk, instead. And we enjoy that, too.
Dogs enjoy walking. They have a good time wherever they go. I’ll modify that statement a tiny bit. My 16-pound poodle mix, Rufus, does not enjoy walking in the rain very much and today we did get caught in the rain. His tail drags and he does look pretty miserable. However, in every other sense, dogs have a good time wherever and however they go, leashed or unleashed. They find new things to smell and taste and pee on, even on the same street or trail they’ve walked a hundred times before. The world is their oyster and it doesn’t matter what sort of world it is or how often they’ve been there. They are intrepid explorers. They are curious scientists. They are all in, wherever and whenever they go.
Dogs can encounter the same tree, sign post, or boulder, and find something fascinating about it. Of course, their fabled sense of smell gives incredible nuance to everything they encounter. The great neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote, in The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, about a man who suddenly found himself with a highly enhanced sense of smell. He compared himself to a dog. He told Dr. Sacks that he was utterly unable to get anything done because he was so completely distracted by the smells around him. Eventually, the phenomenon faded and the man went back to his regular life. But the story always made me think about the vast possibilities that exist in our brains. We are clearly capable of all kinds of things that weÂ cannot even imagine.
Imagine finding the world and every scrap of thing in it as fascinating as dogs do. Imagine being all in every time you take a walk, even from the door of your car to the door of the grocery store. Imagine checking out each object you encounter as if you’re seeing (smelling) it for the first time, with the open mind of an exceptionally curious scientist. Or a dog. Imagine being enthralled by every scrap of thing, wondering what it is and whether or not you might want it. Try being a dog scientist, exploring every tiny bit of your world. Sure, you can’t do it all the time. You’d get nothing done. But just for a little while, maybe on a short walk, try a little experiment.
Be a dog.