Close Your Eyes and Breathe It In

— by Cinnamon

The smell of dog paws … There’s a temptation to talk comfort and cosiness (not a word I love: some people seem not to like moist; with me, it’s cosy or cute – I find both irritating). But that’s not where I’m going.

It’s pouring rain with gale force winds today. We still went out, as it’s good for both the human and dog soul.

Perfume lovers frequently talk memory and association regarding fragrance and smell. With dog paws, it’s that but something more fluid, especially if you’ve grown up with dogs and then gone on to have your own.

The household dog’s (his name is Joe) odour changes each day as time moves along based how he’s feeling (whether he’s exerted himself to bark at the neighbour he doesn’t like) and what he’s eaten, what it’s like outdoors, how much grass he’s ingested, and where he’s slept (eg, his bed, the couch, the floor if it’s hot out).

I know this because I work from home and when I need a break from the two laptops, I’ll go rest with him (or do yoga stretches using him as an anchor – he doesn’t appear to mind). So, I get to smell his paws a fair bit.

In his resting state (ie, after breakfast and a play but before AM walk) the paws usually smell of corn chips (as does his fur). I’m talking Frito-Lay. I can’t for the life of me figure out why that’s the case, but it is. That bordering on sweet but still nutty and salty smell I (at least) associate with a really bad lunch of Hostess Twinkies and Frito-Lay corn chips along with a diet soda as a teenager.

Once he’s been out, all change. If it’s dry (doesn’t matter if it’s warm or cool) his post walk paws smell of warm asphalt. It’s not a worrying scent (ie, it’s too hot out and I should have waited to walk until it was cooler). Rather, it smells sort of like new road surfaces, a fragrance I’ve seen listed on people’s favourites when asked for non-perfume smells they love.

After a wet walk (like today), he smells of slightly damp corn chips, grass and some inexplicable ozone thing. Doesn’t sound pleasant, but it is.

Always underlying this is some essential dog odour which is difficult to describe … a faint muskiness that’s probably associated with some dog hormone I don’t know the name of and dog cleaning of paws (I can hear Lucy from Peanuts yelling ‘Dog Germs!’ from when Snoopy would kiss her).

Sometimes it makes me think of perfumes that fall outside the regular groupings like L’Artisan Bois Farine (flour and cardboard); an older no longer available black tea scent (can’t recall the name, which so strong it was almost, but not quite, offputting); and Cartier IV – L’Heure Fougueuse (which smells of riding a horse on a hot summer’s day — sunshine, hay, leather, sweat).

But more metaphysically, the dog’s paws smell overwhelmingly of home and good things to me – of real rest; mundane activities that include everyone; partaking in the generalised silliness surrounding dog toys; being with those I love doing not much beyond just being.

Does your cat or dog (or other creature) have a scent you’re fond of?  What smells like home and good things to you?

  • Kathleen says:

    I love all of my animal’s scents. My previous kitty who lived to 20 years smelled like baby powder and lilacs. It always amazed me! He was meticulous about grooming himself. Demeter has a perfume named Kitten Fur. I’ve been curious about it, but don’t want to change my scent memory of Babycat.
    All of my male dog’s bellies smell of SL Muscs Koublai Khan. Maybe sounds bizarre, but I adore that scent for the scent memories, current and past.

  • rosarita says:

    We had an awesome golden retriever that our daughter grew up with and he had a good, warm dog smell. But he’s long gone and now we have a rescue cat in our empty nest, and the cat smells wonderful. His fur is thick and silky and soft, like rabbit fur, and I swear the top of his head smells like roses and sunshine all the time even though his disposition definitely doesn’t reflect it.

  • March says:

    I have two little rescue mutts, a mini poodle and a Maltese. I love the way they smell, very comforting. Weirdly neither has that Frito-foot smell which I’ve always detected on the past dogs, all larger breeds. Maybe it’s a bigger-dog thing?

    • cinnamon says:

      Interesting … maybe corn chip smell is more associated with bigger dogs. But also wonder if it has something to do with fur type — ie, do your little ones have coarse or almost curly fur? My lab is a flat coat — flat, dense, oily fur (he’s great in the rain).

  • Pam says:

    Dogs each have their individual odor and it is so comforting. Other than doggie, the smell of bread baking makes it homey for me.
    And welcome, Cinnamon, to the Posse. I tried to tell you last week but it wouldn’t post my comment.

    • cinnamon says:

      Tx, Pam. Ah, bread — and pastries too. I used to bake cinnamon rolls (not supposed to eat things like that any more except for ‘special’) which made the whole house smell incredible.

    • March says:

      I am reeeeally hoping comments keep working. Honestly, you’d think something so basic on a blog would be easier to keep functional… sorry for the struggle!

  • gwenyth2 says:

    I have two Siberian Huskies (Seppala). Our large male is a fluffy, soft cuddly sort…and the ruff around his neck and just behind his ears smells of sweet musky vanilla. I love to bury my nose in his fur and inhale his scent.
    His half-sister has a different coat and also a different scent. She is not as sweetly fragrant, but is a sweetie in nature.
    Family and friends tell me that my house smells nice – a mixture of perfume, perfumed lotions, candles and warm, fragrant dogs.

    • cinnamon says:

      The dogs sound lovely. And I’m impressed that they add positively to the house smell. While I love mine and love the smell of his paws, etc, he can make the house overall smell similar to Bois Farine — sort of cardboardy, particularly if the world is already damp from a lot of rain.

    • March says:

      I love taking in the smell of people’s houses, and it’s also cool to realize when people smell detectably like their house — lots of times it’s food smells IMO.

      Our house smells like dust and furniture wax and incense and dog and hot radiator. It’s divine.

      • cinnamon says:

        sigh. a lot of the time our house has that damp and damp dog cardboardy smell. That’s one of the things I hope to rectify when the house is renovated. It helps to burn candles, especially Diptyque Feu de Bois and the no longer available (as far as I can see — I wish I had purchased a half dozen rather than one) Cezanne’s studio.

  • Portia says:

    Hey Cinnamon,
    Our dogs paws smell good.
    Our house usually smells a bit of incense, candle and two old men, with two middle aged dogs. I keep it fairly clean but smells stay. We keep as many doors and windows open as possible to get fresh air in too.
    The best smell on earth to me is cooking bacon, warm butter on toast and brewing coffee, together. That smell would wake me from the dead.
    Portia xx

  • Bee says:

    Yes! We don’t talk enough about how animals smell. I do love the smell of my dog now – it’s like digestive biscuits – but when she was a puppy she smelled awful. She’s a Keeshond and the puppies all have a very heavy sour/musky smell that was quite off putting. For the first couple of days I thought we had made a terrible mistake with this breed but it faded quite soon and she grew into a lovely sweet natured dog with a matchingly good smell. And it didn’t stop us getting a second one.
    btw I am ok with the word ‘cozy’ but I do hate ‘moist’! Lol

    • cinnamon says:

      OK, Bee, what’s wrong with moist??? Had to look up Keeshond. Verrrrry fluffy. Can imagine that fur would hold smells well.

  • Tara C says:

    I love the smell and feel of my dog’s silky fur. My previous female though had the best natural scent of any pet I’ve ever had. I would bury my face in her flank and breathe in deeply, it was the most lovely comforting thing ever and I still miss her every day. Home is wherever I’m with my furry friends.

    • cinnamon says:

      I’m sorry for the loss of your furred family member. I love how different dogs have different fur textures — and even among the same breeds. Joe is a lab, with a flat coat that is actually quite coarse. But I looked after a neighbour’s lab who had the softest fur.