Sniffs, Thoughts, and a Challenge

Taking up a suggestion from Pamela of Something Wagging This Way Comes over the weekend Shiva and I took a walk guided entirely by her nose. I don’t recommend doing this unless you have a lot of time to spare. Perhaps my dog is just a slow reader, but when given the opportunity to freely sniff, Shiva knows how to take full advantage. There were a few times I had to nudge her nose along when it led us into a muddy ravine. So I also recommend wearing boots when going on such an adventure.

I noticed right away that I was much more present. I wasn’t thinking about all the things I needed to accomplish. It seemed that when the pressure of deciding our route was taken away, I let myself stop worrying about other things as well. I’d left my cell phone at home and couldn’t keep checking the time. We just walked.

I’ve remarked before on how well the lives of canines and humans delve together. Dogs are most active at dusk and dawn, fitting in perfectly with our nine-to-five lifestyles. They like to play as much as we do and are more than willing to clean up our messes. But it struck me as Shiva and I investigated the smells of our neighbourhood, that dogs are even better suited to the lives of our human ancestors. Back when we were a hunting and gathering society, the domestic dog thrived. They were born to wander, constantly discovering new things. With greater human complexity, dogs adapted but I don’t think they really changed. In a way, I think they help remind us of our explorational past.

Sadly, we humans have done a good job of forgetting. Even if our bodies and our minds long to get out and experience new things, the society we have created for ourselves inhibits these desires. Other things take precedence now and we forget to appreciate the world outside. We are also a lot more afraid.

One of the traits I admire most in Shiva is her lack of fear. She embraces novelty with her whole being. When we’ve taken her to new parks or new cities, she leaps up and down. She can’t wait to discover the source of all the new smells. Even when encountering the one thing that does scare her – deep water – she has still made far greater strides toward overcoming that fear than I have over any of mine. Shiva’s courage has brought her many rewards. Whether it’s tasting that funky-smelling new treat or learning how to run across the frighteningly high dog walk, she doesn’t let fear of the unknown stop her from trying. Nor does she seem bothered if she makes a mistake or looks silly.

She just gives it another go.

We humans have forgotten how to explore, and even how to try new things. We get settled in our routines and are reluctant to break away from them, even for a moment. Many of us are even too inhibited to try a new variety of fruit from the grocery store. It just doesn’t seem worth the risk.

That’s why this week I am issuing you all a challenge. I dare you all to try something new, something you have never done before. It can be anything, like sampling that crazy-looking dragon fruit for the first time, or going to that museum on the other side of town. It just has to be brand new to you. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe you won’t, but I encourage you to try.

I am going to participate as well. The “try 100 new things” item on my life list hasn’t been updated in a tragically long while. I need to get motivated to start discovering again as much as anyone. On next Tuesday, December 6th, I will share my new thing with you all and I’d love it if you’d also share what you did.

For some extra motivation, I am going to give away a copy of Jennifer Arnold’s Through a Dog’s Eyes via random draw of next week’s comments. So not only will you be expanding your horizons by trying something completely different, but you’ll also have a chance to win a pretty fantastic book that explores the world in which our dogs live.

Is it a deal?

Ready, set, go!

32 thoughts on “Sniffs, Thoughts, and a Challenge

  1. When I was younger (ten years younger) and Charlie was a young thing I remember letting him walk me and keeping my eyes closed. It was such a powerful experience – giving in to him 100% (though probably not very smart in a NYC neighborhood). I haven’t done it in years, and might give it a try if I find a suitable place (you know, no other dogs or people or squirrels).


  2. Gwynn would have me running through the neighbours’ backyards if i gave him the lead. He really likes other peoples’ yards.
    I feel like such a downer, but the other thing i’ll say is this: the dragon fruit will be dissapointing. it’s got a weird taste and a slimy texture that entirely threw me off. We ate less than a quarter of it. Try Kiwiberries (or northern kiwis) instead – tehy look like rotten grapes on the outside, but inside, they’re tiny tiny kiwis, and delicious.


    • I actually kind of liked dragon fruit. Though I agree it’s a little bland. The texture reminds me of kiwi, which I love. I’ve never seen kiwiberries in the store but if I do I will have to give them a try!


  3. i love this!

    on our morning walks, which get to be 40 minutes long at most, i try to incorporate some training, some running, some letting him lead the way, and some intense sniffing time. it’s a lot to cram into such a short time, but i’m always so concerned about him getting the most from the walks. i wonder if i should be doing these things on different days instead of a little bit every day.


    • There are no rules! I am a lot like you, I try to incorporate as much as I can into our twice daily walks. I don’t see that as a bad thing, though. Whatever works for you and keeps Desmond happy is a win! Besides, trainers usually recommend working in short spurts every day, so you might be on the right track regarding keeping his interest going.


  4. Hi, I try to sniff as much as I can on my walks. I always find something new to smell on my walks. My dad says that he’ll try to find something new for us to do. I think that I’ll take my walking caretakers on a new route today.


  5. This is so true. During the years I hiked avidly, I never brought a cell phone or anything besides survival necessities in my backpack. We kept a tent in the car in case we found a place we really wanted to stay overnight. Those were my most “present” years – I noticed every little detail in nature, heard incredible wildlife sounds, and took photos of so many beautiful and unusual things that went unnoticed by the majority of humanity. I miss those years, but now I think I’ll do a little exploring again at the whim of Daisy’s nose. Great idea!


  6. Thats how I normally do walks with my dogs if we are leash walking. But then, normally we go do an off leash walk that is so much easier and more fun for all of us, and the dogs get to sniff around to their hearts’ content while I don’t have to follow them into the mud…


  7. Whenever I let my dogs “sniff freely”…they always seem to find the rabbit and deer poop, of course they must try a sample! Ick!!! I’m sure they dont understand my complete disgust in what is clearly a yummy delicacy.

    I have been thinking this week that I need to do something new, some sort of volunteer work perhaps. I have so much, and feel I need to be sharing more with others. Either monetarily and simply giving my time to those in need. Thanks for the challenge! I may have to put my thoughts into action.


  8. I bet Shiva could lead you to all kinds of interesting places. 🙂

    You make an interesting point about dogs having activity levels that match when we’re home. But it still feels unnatural to me to work set hours every day no matter what the weather or our energy levels.

    I’m starting to feel I was an aborigine in a past life who spent his time chasing down prey with his trusty dog. Maybe that should be my new thing to try?

    Thanks for the shout out. Glad you had fun following Shiva’s nose (mud notwithstanding).


  9. Shiva seems the kind of fearless girl that could lead you in to lots of adventures and what fun and it will be great to hear about them! Now thinking of something new to do…hmmm I’ll let you know 🙂


  10. That’s a great challenge! Well I’ve never been in Nutcracker before, so I will be sure to report on the results of that new adventure!

    I think certain dogs are especially suited to following their noses. Fozzie the hound disguised as a mastiff is a real master. Back when Lars was lost almost a year ago, I took Fozzie out to the area where Lars had been sighted and just let him lead us on a meandering trail for miles. It was quite fun. We didn’t find Lars that day (he was found a couple of weeks later and is now happy in his forever home) but we sure did bond. Thanks for the reminder of this great way to be with our pups.


  11. I’m a bit embarrassed by the fact that Frankie is not interested in doggie activities like sniffing or chasing birds or squirrels. People on the trail always comments about the fact that he walks directly behind me. I think he worries that I am going to escape him, even when he’s on a leash. Or else he uses me as a sun block.

    Something new. Hmmm…I took off a few hours to take a friend out to breakfast after she told me it was her birthday instead of being dutiful and working through the morning. It’s not entirely unprecedented but it’s very unlike me to be that spontaneous. Guilt usually wins out.


  12. Ooooo…this is a good challenge! My mom is all the time asking me to do new stuffs that I might not really want to try, but I give it a go for her. Now it’s my turn to ask HER to try something new! Oh, boy!

    Speaking of new, we gots to go to a place called Kansas City and I got to sniff all sorts of new Kansas City smells. That was FUN! Um, but riding down on the elevator in the hotel – not really fun at all.

    Wiggles & Wags,


  13. Wow, I have NO idea where Luna would take us. Maybe we will try it one day while hiking and see how far we go… after we buy one of those things that tell you how to get back to your car.

    This week (actually tonight) I tried Quinoa. I don’t even know what it is nor do I remember how I found out about it. But it was not bad, decent texture and I can work with the flavor. So now I have another thing to add to my small list of items I eat.


  14. We explore and try new things all of the time! Two of my favorite quotes are “try at least one new thing every day that scares you” (Helen Keller maybe) and “life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” (Helen Keller for sure). I don’t want to forget the good stuff 🙂 I can still get very trapped in the routine and mundane if I am not careful like everyone else though.


  15. Wow, if I walked following Barbie’s nose it would take hours! Bender would be a bit different, he has his routes that he likes to patrol so it’s not just his nose he follows, but his own little map of the neighbourhood.


  16. Very thoughtful and in depth post. I really liked it. I’ve been reading Jean M. Auel, “The Earth Children’s Series,” and I am on book 5, “The Shelters of Stone.” Being such an avid reader, I figure you may have read it already, but if not, the series is excellent. The main heroine tames and trains a wolf pup and she lets him come and go as he pleases. Even though it is set in glacier times, I feel this yearning for that kind of freedom and exploring while letting the dogs run wild and being able to commune with nature in it’s rawest form.

    I like what you said about our explorational past when I have a hard time leaving the house some days. lol

    I like your challenge. Sign me up. I have something I have been trying to get the courage to do for some time. Thanks for the push! Looking forward to what your challenge will be for yourself. Can’t wait to hear about it.

    Good Luck!


  17. Ohhh good challenge! Can I count the zip line, even though I did it a couple days ago? Haha. No, I should think of something else. Like cooking something new, or taking the dogs to a new place to walk.


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