My dog keeps her nose to the ground, burying it deep into the heavy grass. On our morning walks, I constantly and gently (because bloodhounds have tender souls) reprimand her with one command: “Leave it!”
Most days this serves us well and we move along at a nice pace, hunting down the next blade of grass that smells just right. Other days? This wrinkled, floppy-eared, 85-lb bloodhound yanks me in the opposite direction. She drags me along, scrambling to catch a whiff of something she’s caught in the wind.
I understand that she can’t help herself, that this behavior is Who She Is. She has to smell everything. And, I mean everything! Ladybird has the ability to “distinguish smells at least a thousand times better than humans” (“Underdogs.” PBS). She sniffs doorknobs, seat cushions, handbags, electric cords, shoelaces, the stitching of your jeans, and naturally, your crotch (sorry, ’bout that).
It’s all relative, just her way to see and experience the world. After all, she is a dog. But, she is a nosey dog, and, without constant redirection, will follow that nose and get into serious trouble.
Like most people, she remains habitual in her curiosity, in her nosiness, in her love of community. I call her a busybody at times, simply because she thinks that everything and everyone is her business: the cats, the gardeners, the housekeeper, an occasional jogger, all neighborhood dogs. Doesn’t matter who or what, she is boss.
This morning she caught me off guard and lunged at a passing car. I quickly scolded her and commanded, “Leave it! That’s not your business.”
I repeated “Leave it!” and redirected her toward our gate.
How many times must I remind her? I thought. The answer came quickly: As many times as I remind myself.
It was a small aha! moment, one I’ve recognized many times. Often we are pulled in one direction or another, drawn into other people’s business, into their busy-ness. Perhaps we even lunge forward with good intention as Ladybird does. Whether by default, choice, or unexpected circumstances, this happens to all of us.
But, it’s important to know how to redirect our attention, how to override this curiosity, this natural desire to help where help isn’t needed, to know what is our business and what is not. Ladybird is a good teacher.
At daybreak, her nose pulls me forward into the morning dew and a gentle bell goes off in my head. I welcome the moment to speak out loud, reminding her to “Leave it!” and move on down the road.
Sources: Underdogs: the Bloodhounds Amazing Sense of Smell. PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/underdogs-the-bloodhounds-amazing-sense-of-smell/350/ June 9, 2008.