Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The dogs must be crazy

When she was here for the holidays, my mom loaned me How Dogs Think by Stanley Coren. I loved it. It has had an indelible effect on the way I see the three canines who share our home.

In a couple of ways, the book inspired empathy. The section about stoicness in dogs was rough for me, considering Silver's recent troubles with her knees.* Also, it turns out dogs lack heat receptors in most areas of their skin, so when they seek out sunbeams, they're just trying to turn off their cold receptors. As a person with Raynaud's Syndrome who is forever trying to turn off her danged cold receptors, I practically teared up when I read that. They're like me! I thought.

But of course, they're not like me at all. They only have two of the three kinds of color receptors we have in our eyes, so they see colors in a spectrum from blue to yellow to brown. That happens to be, with almost no exceptions, the spectrum our house is decorated in. I may have unwittingly created a House That Dogs Can See...except for a couple of red chairs in the living room, which shall forever remain a dark-grey mystery to them.

Mostly, the book made me feel a profound respect for my furry housemates. It's one thing to know that dogs can find escaped criminals; it's another thing altogether to start to understand how they do it. They pick up scent on teeny little rafts of escaped skin cells. By the concentration, they can tell which direction a person is moving in. They can tell which part of the body the smell is coming from. And they can even tell identical twins apart, providing that the twins haven't eaten exactly the same diet. Holy cow.

With this in mind, I've been thinking about the dogs' reactions to all the pork around here. I handle the bacon daily in order to massage the cure into it. Every day I open the ham tub at least once, usually twice or three times, to swap out the freeze packs that keep it chilled. Last night I cooked a really good stir-fry with one of the unnameable cuts of meat we ended up with because we aren't professional butchers.** I must smell like pork CONSTANTLY to our dogs, no matter how much I wash. They must be going bananas.

And now I really, really smell like pork because I took out one of our big slabs of bacon, rinsed it off, blotted it dry, and stuck it on a drying rack in the fridge to air-dry until tomorrow morning. You see, there are two kinds of homemade bacon: the very salty kind that can be stored in a cool place almost indefinitely; and the kind that's optimal, taste-wise, for breakfast. This particular slab was rescued from the cure because it is destined to be the latter. It's not cured deeply enough to keep well, but we need it now, for egg accompaniment purposes.

Tomorrow is Bacon Eating Day.

* By the way, Silv went back to the doctor after two weeks on the Rimadyl and the gluc/chon, and her knees were still popping right out when the vet flexed them. Surgery looks almost inevitable. However, we've now hit the three-week mark, which is when the gluc/chon should be starting to kick in, and I swear I can see a spring in that dog's step. She seems pretty happy. I will keep you posted.

** I wish I had better words to describe how delicious it tasted. Despite the leanness of whatever cut it was, it was tender yet substantial, and it had fabulous depth of flavor.