This Side Up

We passed the sniff test


The most amazing thing happened today,” Carol said as soon as I opened the door. She had been waiting to tell me the news and she knows how to heighten the suspense.

“He did it to me,” she said. “after all these years.”

I now had a good idea that the “he” was Ollie, but I had no idea what he could have done.

“Did what?”

“Well, you know,” she answered. “He nuzzled me.”

Indeed, I knew.

From the moment we adopted him, Ollie has been an independent and near impossible “to read” spotted coon hound. That’s not to imply his fixation on food isn’t obvious – drooling is a giveaway – or that he likes having his after-breakfast siesta in the sun interrupted. He lets out an annoyed grunt.

But until recently, Ollie’s affection has been rare. He’s not a licker unless it’s peanut butter on a spoon. For the longest time, the only occasion he waged his tail was when he picked up a scent and was on the trail of hunting whatever it was. It’s not squirrels or rabbits, since he pays them no attention. Raccoons, deer and cats are a different matter. The sight of any of them triggers the howling.

He never made a mad rush to greet either of us when we arrived home, and more often than not we wondered if somehow he had gotten out. We’d shout his name, whistle and even say “dinner” in hopes he would come. But no, nothing. We’d find him on our bed with a look that said, “What are you all worked up about?” There must be some cat in him.

But he’s changing, and I’m realizing once again how nice it is to be appreciated by a dog.

The first sign was the tail. It started to twitch when I got home from work. This was hardly effusive, nothing like the elation I’ve seen from Nash, my son’s dog, when he gets home. Nonetheless, it was something, and I was beginning to feel this was more than a convenient relationship where he was fed and got to go on walks. That transitioned to racing down stairs as soon as I got home to at least check out whether I might have some food – and then, with a flash of excitement, he’d find one of his pullies for a game of tug of war.

In the last couple of months, he’s become increasingly attentive, checking in when I’m working on the computer and seeing what I might be doing in the cellar. Then came a surprise. He was lying on the floor. I petted him and he rolled over to expose his stomach. He stretched out his hind legs, obviously enjoying it. Suddenly he stood, tail wagging. I thought for certain he was ready for another game of pullie. But no. He affectionately pushed his nose into my armpit – surely better there than elsewhere.

It’s happened three or four times since. I’ve been accepted.

But it wasn’t until last week that Carol got the armpit.

She was thrilled. Our adoptee has decided we’re a family. It’s good to be appreciated, especially when it comes from a dog. We’ve passed the sniff test.


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