Smelling like a dog

It’s a very gray day.

Today is exactly the sort of day I am most grateful for dogs.

Walking in my neighborhood, everyone feels the need to share the latest dire news. Meeting in the street, we almost feel irresponsible if we don’t express our concern and our dismay and our confusion. The people with dogs, however, have it easy.

Because dogs don’t care.

Nearly every day, I encounter dogs. There is Graham, the black lab, who is supposedly being trained as a service dog. Graham does not appear to have acquired a service mentality quite yet. He is far more interested in finding bits of disgusting animal remains and running around with bones in his mouth.

There is Teddy, an all-white malamute. He is terrified of my hiking poles and starts to make noises that sound like singing whenever I approach.

But lately, the dog I get the biggest kick out of is Snoopy, a sixty-pound plus Bernese Mountain Dog. Snoopy is only four months old. His owner, Monica, a slim woman with an Eastern European accent is trying to teach Snoopy manners. Snoopy might be learning—but he is not learning nearly as fast as he is growing.

I learned Snoopy’s name the first time we met and now, when I see him coming in the distance, I holler, “Hey! Snoopy!” Snoopy stops dead in his tracks. He looks up. He recognizes me. Then he begins to run, his oversized front paws pounding the pavement in unison, dragging poor Monica behind him. (I always realize I shouldn’t have done that the moment after I do.)

Poor Monica arrives breathless and Snoopy does all the things you’d expect a four-month-old puppy to do—but in a sixty-pound plus package. It is exhausting and exciting and totally delightful.

The bad news for Monica is that Snoopy will be 120 pounds before he’s done growing and he will still be a puppy. Monica can train him every day for the next year, but he will still totally lose it at regular intervals. I pity Monica. And I envy her.

Because, when you are walking Snoopy, there’s nothing else you can do. You can’t worry too much about the economy or even the pandemic when you have sixty pounds of slobbering enthusiasm on your hands. No one is at a loss for words when they meet Monica and Snoopy. Everyone says, “Hey! Snoopy!” Because dogs don’t care.

Dogs are living in this moment, excited about the person in front of them, smelling whatever is in the air at that moment. Worries about tomorrow don’t exist for Snoopy.

I know I can’t live like Snoopy. I know there is a lot more I have to think about—a lot more I am responsible for. But right now, more than ever, I wish I had a dog. Because, no matter what happens, a dog needs a walk. A dog needs to be talked to and petted and cared for. A dog keeps us tethered in the here and now and reminds us that we are living in this moment, and that every moment in the future is imaginary.

I reluctantly say goodbye to Snoopy and Monica. “You have friends, Snoopy!” Monica tells her giant puppy as they walk away. I try to remember what I was thinking about before I saw Snoopy, and the thought is gone. It will return, I am sure. But right now, I notice how deeply blue the sky is, how signs of green are starting to appear, and how my hands are smelling like dog.

Till next time.

Carrie Classon’s memoir is called, “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at

Carrie Classon’s memoir is called, “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at