Driving down the road, you glance at another car going by and the bright jacket of a service dog catches your eye. A fuzzy head is hanging out the rear window, snout turned into the free-flowing breeze, fur blowing fiercely as the car speeds off.
While many thoughts might race through your head, you can’t help but notice that this wind-blown canine looks happy and content. It’s amusing to watch the dog’s face; he appears to be in a state of pure bliss. I wonder why. What is that dog thinking? Does he wish he were cruising in a convertible, checking out the bitches? Is he trying to air out a stale-smelling car? Is he trying to alert passersby that he feels trapped in a moving vehicle and is begging to get out?
Of course, you could speculate all day long, imposing human emotion as to your four-pawed friend’s intent. The truth of why the dog looks so happy with his head protruding into the free-blowing air outside probably has a lot to do with his nose and that avid sense of smell bestowed upon our canine friends. In fact, a dog’s sense of smell is so precise that they are riven by their olfactory skills much as humans explore with vision.
Inside the nose of both humans and dogs are bony plates called turbinates that allow air to pass over a scent-detecting membrane. In humans, this membrane is the size of a quarter at best. However, depending on the size of the dog, he or she has olfactory membranes as large as the size of a dinner napkin with more than 125 and up to 300 million receptors. When air breezes across these membranes, molecules containing smells are picked up by the dog’s scent receptors. The more air, the more odor-recognizing potential. Most likely your four-pawed friend wishes some of those delicious smells came in the form of food on a plate.
Danger – Danger
There are obvious dangers to take to heart if you’re considering rolling down the window for your dog. Blissful or not, it is dangerous to let a dog hang his or her face out a car’s window. In addition to all those delicious smells, comes the reality that the wind can also carry dangerous debris. Numerous dogs have been seriously injured this way. And, sadly, some dogs have become so excited and intense, they’ve actually fallen out of the car’s window and been killed.
If you have a service dog, one of the strict rules from an accredited service dog organization, is that you may not let your dog hang his or her head out of the window of a moving car. Indeed, if this was reported, in all likelihood, the organization would take the dog back. No appeals. No excuses. You’ve lost your dog. After all the training you went through, your dog will be retrained and given to someone else.
But, in case you despair in not letting your pampered pooch enjoy this “wind in your face” experience, try this: Take a deep breath and blow directly into your dog’s face and watch his or her reaction. Get the camera ready to catch that look of . . . disgust. Not so blissful now, eh poochie-poo?
With thanks to Tere J. Scott.