Arlo has a nose like a heat seeking missile that hones in on anything remotely edible within twenty yards (by that I mean front yards and back yards).
Consequently, our morning stroll is often interrupted with, “No Arlo. Leave it. Drop that. Drop it. DROP IT!” as he locks onto anything from half-eaten Big Macs to road kill along the curbs and in the ditches.
Of course he’s just being a Labradawg; a breed that possesses forty times more scent processing cells in their brains than humans and can discern and remember them about 100 times better.
I share some of the Labradawg’s missile lock-on properties when it comes to certain foods - Frontenac Bakery breadsticks, for example. When this happens I’m inclined to also triangulate to the fridge and seek out the pungent tang of Asiago cheese and Italian black olives from Pallucca’s.
Like most everyone else, much of my enjoyment of eating comes from through my nose.
Smell influences all kinds of behaviors; can change our minds. Consider whether it’s best to show a house you want to sell while baking chocolate chip cookies or cleaning a batch of catfish in the kitchen.
We both laugh at and loathe noses. Back in the day, comedians Danny Thomas, Bob Hope and Jimmy Durante – all of whom possessed large snouts — used them in their acts as the butt of jokes. These days, stars are prone to get a ‘nose job’ to make this most public organ more pleasing – even to the point of whittling it down to nothing like Michael Jackson.
Over the years, we’ve coined plenty of slang terms for the nose – beak, proboscis, snout, conk, hooter, schnozz, sniffer, and pug for instance.
Also plenty of nose phrases - ”Cut off your nose to spite your face,” “Nose in the air,” “No skin off my nose,” “Keep your nose clean,” “Got it right on the nose,” “Powder your nose,” “Right under your nose,” “Rub your nose in it,” “Don’t get your nose out of joint,” “Just follow your nose,” “Keep your nose to the grindstone,” “Being led by the nose,” “Looking down your nose,” “Turning up your nose,” and “Poking your nose where it doesn’t belong.”
There’s a whole other list of idioms using the word smell, as in: ‘Wake up and smell the coffee,” “Something just doesn’t smell right about that,” and “Houseguests and fish begin to smell after three days.”
We’ve developed a billion dollar industry around scents. Which is to say, we human animals don’t want to smell human so we use a myriad of products to save us from body odor, foot odor, bad breath and sweat.
Descriptive words for smells abound in our vocabulary; words like savory, sweet, spicy, delightful, delectable and fragrant for good ones — and funk, reek, stench, foul, rank and rancid for offensive ones.
Research has shown that smells associated with disgust take a shortcut through our amygdala — the emotional, primitive part of our brain — while more pleasant smells are processed in our cortex which allows us the option to rise above emotional involvement with them.
Certain scents create memories of people, places, things and situations. I once had a PSU student who, when she walked into a classroom with slate backboards and the odor of erasers and chalk dust in the air, proclaimed, “Ugh! This room smells like math!”
The scent of Old Spice aftershave brings forth my dad’s smiling face, voice and tender eyes. A gift of my nose.
And then there’s sex. Plenty of research has shown that scent is linked to sexual attraction, but the exact connection is a mystery. Perfumes and colognes are basically designed to get us turn your heads and notice someone, but exactly what ‘personal fragrances’ entice a mate into a long-term relationship, scientists have not been able to pin down.
There you have it. Our noses give us pleasure in every bite, words for our vocabulary, the backdoor scent of being back home, visions of lost family members, and mysterious attraction to potential mates.
So let us wear them proudly and follow along behind them with gratitude and pride. Let’s be nosey.
J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and eulogist. He also operates Knoll Training & Consulting in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or firstname.lastname@example.org