I need to SMELL you



Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra ‘news flashes’


Sunday May 20th 2018


We’ve had a good week, Isis and I.

Thankfully, Hairy One’s nightmares have returned to their previous frequency: usually only one or two snarly episodes a night and these are over in a few seconds.

They usually occur soon after she goes to sleep, whether she’s alone at night or sharing the day bed with me at other times.

I’ve just been refreshing my knowledge of sleep patterns, and this has confirmed my growing conviction that the distress occurs during the first, non-rem stages  of sleep when consciousness is only slightly lower than when we’re awake. Of course, I’ve no idea whether animals’ sleep patterns are similar to ours.

Just checked it out. Most mammals, including dogs apparently, have rem and non-rem sleep.

If I’m with Isis, I can tell when she’s about to have a snarly sleep interruption as her lips twitch and she emits little growls. If I don’t intervene, she soon leaps up snarling. Once she’s on her feet she wakes up, checks out her patch and lies down again.

Nowadays, if I see the early signs I can usually stop her at the growly stage. As we know, not so long ago, touching her while she was sleeping was like dropping a match on a petrol spillage. It took stupid Human years to realise that however gentle the touch, it would alarm her. Even so, over the years, she began to come out of the ‘nightmare’ more quickly.

Since I have learned never to touch Isis without first placing a hand in front of her muzzle so that she can pick up my scent, I can usually pre-empt traumas.

I had always assumed that if I was in the same room as she was, she would automatically know it was me. Two things happened to sharpen up my wits. First Hannah of http://www.pawfectdogsense.co.uk informed me that scents do not travel in straight lines, but move in the air in waves and loops, so if dogs are relying only on their noses to track down something, it can take them a while to find it.

(I always wondered why my very smart little dog Ellie never went straight to a  ball if she couldn’t see it, but instead ran hither and thither trying to find it.)

The second pointer only happened a few months ago. A visitor and I were working on my PC and Isis was lying on the futon. When we got up, my friend went to the door first and Isis immediately followed, tail in the air. Much to my surprise, when Isis sniffed her, the previously jaunty tail went down and Isis stopped dead in her tracks.

Clearly, she had mistaken my friend for me and was shocked when she sniffed her closely. Once I offered my hand to Hairy One for her to sniff, she wagged her tail and followed us out.

Similarly, I now realise, I need to let her sniff my hand before I touch her wherever we are. If I don’t, the poor little thing jumps and flinches.

It’s a damn good job that dogs learn more quickly that humans, or we’d never have the patience to train them!


Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact kerry@aeza.org or  www.dogwatchuk.co.uk

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4 Responses to I need to SMELL you

  1. Anonymous says:

    Interesting read, as always. I’m curious to know why you interrupt Isis’s dreams.Martha sleeps with me and has a dream every night shortly after falling asleep and then another one about 6am. About once a fortnight she also has a howling episode whilst asleep , like a wolf calling to its pack. I always leave her to dream as I thought dreaming was our brains way of sorting out anxieties while we slept. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Martha’s howling sounds amazing. I only wake Isis when she begins to growl and snarl in her sleep because she becomes quite distraught and literally tears out her hair and bites at her tail and feet. Sometimes, I can just touch her gently and she subsides, but at other times, I try to pat her awake so that she realises where she is before she attacks herself.


      • Anonymous says:

        That must be distressing to watch, and potentially harmful to Isis. I see why you wake her up ! xx


      • Yes, it’s very distressing and exhausting. I found it very hard to see the poor little dog in such a frenzied state, and to imagine what she was so afraid of. It’s such a relief that she now comes round so quickly when she realises where she is.


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