There are times our walks could hardly be called walks. Duncan simply moves from one spot to the next, his nose hard to the ground, pushing against it as a plow pushes into the earth, moving, it seems, without moving, one slow step at a time, oblivious to the world with me standing impatiently beside him. There is almost nothing I can do to urge him forward, to rush his careful passage over a realm that is entirely invisible to my eyes. I see only pavement or the same patch of grass he's been enamored with for ten or fifteen minutes. But he is diligent in his exploration and so appreciative of each and every odor that crosses his path that I can only stand awkwardly by while he sniffs a pebble or a rusty spot on the iron fence until everything else vanishes. His nose is literally a million times more powerful than mine so I accept my blindness and stand dutifully by, watching and waiting.
Dogs use their sense of smell far more than we use our eyes. Their entire world is comprised of fragrances, things we can't even fathom. Our noses tend to adjust to scents and within minutes––sometimes seconds––of encountering them, they lose their potency or fade into obscurity. But not so for dogs. Their nostrils are designed to keep smells fresh and vibrant, which allows them to follow a path we can't see, telling time by how fresh the scent is and how it grows weaker over distance.
And then there is me, stopping every few feet to breathe in the Lindens, which have just come into bloom. It is an overwhelming perfume, one I've grown to love as much, if not more, than my precious Russian Olives. Roo sits patiently beside me while I bury my face in the blossoms to breathe and breathe until the scent is gone. He glances this way and that, as though embarrassed by my love of something so obvious and easy and as mindless as Justin Beiber. And yet I follow his example, learn the lessons he teaches and appreciate the world, not just the visible, but all its aspects, from the texture of the leaves to the songs of the birds always rising above the ever-present traffic on the surrounding streets.
I cannot imagine what his walks are like, but I like think that to a dog everything smells like new Summer flowers, that everything is worth stopping and sniffing.
Earth laughs in flowers. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)