It’s been said that out of all the senses, scent has the most powerful influence over your memories.  In fact, just the other day, I stepped into a parking garage elevator and got a whiff of some powder that immediately brought me back over 20 years to my days as a clumsy little ballerina/tap dancer.  Before recitals, some of the older girls backstage would always put make-up on us – blue eye shadow, red lipstick and rosy blush.  Honestly, I don’t remember powder being added to my face, but I remember that smell as I sat cross-legged in my tutu and tights, confined in a quiet narrow hallway, allowing a super-cool babysitter to make me look like a model. 

Literally, I closed my eyes and took several giant inhales as the elevator took me up to my car on the fourth floor and down memory lane.

There’s not many scents that frighten me.  Some are offending, like dirty diapers, rotten veggies, sour milk and skunks.  Some make me sneeze, like strong perfume, cut grass and spring flowers.  And some I love, like doggie feet, chocolate chip cookies and garlic.  I guess the smell of smoke puts me a little on edge, but can you imagine what would happen if you sniffed something outside and immediately were overcome with such terror that you couldn’t even hear someone calling your name?  To turn and run in the opposite direction as quickly as your legs could carry you?

I can’t.  And yet, that’s what my dog has been doing on and off while on walks.  Out of nowhere one night, he refused to cross the street where he normally does his business.  We were walking along and he suddenly stopped in his tracks, planted his paws and pulled his tail so far up his crotch that it nearly tickled his neck.  His eyes widened, his ears went back and he kept looking behind him, as if paranoid that he was being stalked.  Then began the pulling, pulling, pulling towards home, running like a feral animal with one goal in mind:  to get inside safely.  Brody may be a low-rider and weighs only a quarter of what I do, but I thought my hand was going to snap off with the force of his tug.

After the behavior repeated on most walks in different areas of the neighborhood, I talked to other dog owners around who mentioned wild animal spottings – tales of giant skunks, raccoons, rats and possums surfaced.  I hadn’t seen anything around and to my knowledge, nothing had leapt out at Brody during a walk, but each time his tail cowered between his shaky little legs, he’d been sniffing the grass. 

I can’t help but wonder how foreign and offending that smell would have to be to instill such fear in Brody, who normally swaggers down the street like a rock star and barks at dogs three times his size.  He was found stray before we rescued him from Dogs Without Borders and had clearly been well taken care of prior to that because he was clean, loving and easy to train.  Did that smell take him back to something awful that happened to him on the streets?  Did he have a yipey nightmare about that smell recently that he just can’t shake?  Or is my dog just going through a pathetic phase of anxiety attacks dealing with the outdoors?

Tune in next time to find out how the pooch fares and what my next feardom-fighting challenges are on Scared Witless!

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