Pet Column: A heartwarming tale that starts with a nose

Moments after being given a scent-soaked toy, this 14-day-old puppy had the will to live. Photo by Elle Williams.

By Elle Williams, CPDT-KA  
Pet Columnist, Canyon Lake Insider  

It’s no secret that a dog’s nose is amazing. With roughly 300 million receptors in their nose and a second olfactory organ to read complex chemical signals, a dog’s nose can do so much more than smell out the crumbs left from dinner. 

In fact, the nose is so important that newborn puppies are born with the ability to smell from the moment they are born, while their eyes and ears don’t open until they are two to three weeks old. Because they start life with smells, memories tied to smell are stored for life. I could go on and on about the science of a dog’s nose, but instead, I have a true story about how smell saved a puppy’s life.

Over the last week, a family member of mine took on the task of caring for two 14-day-old puppies. The poor pups were rejected by their mother. The dog’s owner selfishly wanted to breed her at six months old (during her first heat), but shortly after giving birth, she rejected her puppies. Who can blame her when she’s still very much a puppy herself.

After human intervention, the majority of the puppies got a good start in life, but two weren’t as lucky. The two puppies could not go back to the litter because they were far too fragile. I’ll spare you the sad details, but ultimately, my family ended up with one lonely puppy.

After losing his only littermate, food, heat, and shelter weren’t enough for this little guy to make it. He needed companionship. We had to quarantine him, so introducing my dogs was not an option, or was it?

Although I took strong measures to disinfect myself after each interaction with the puppy, my female pit bull, Olive, could still smell him all over me. Her tail wagged, her body posture became submissive, and her mothering instincts grew. All of these physical signs assured me that she was giving off the kind of smells that a puppy needed to feel safe. So I grabbed a stuffed toy, rubbed it all over Olive, and brought it to the puppy.

Within seconds, a once lethargic little body transformed into a happy little wiggle. With only his nose to guide him, he nuzzled up into the stuffed toy. You could hear his little nose going full force. Suddenly his eyes began to open. He started to wine and even gave a little howl. All because his nose told him “you have a mama, you’re not alone.”

Shortly after the introduction of this new mama, the puppy’s morale grew. He demanded food and got plenty of deep sleep that’s crucial for growth.

My family and I continue to give him round-the-clock care. Once he gets the all-clear from our vets, we will introduce him to Olive and she can show him the kind of care and skills only another dog can provide. It’s a happy ending that all started with a nose.

Elle Williams is a local in-home dog trainer and the owner of Give a Sit Dog Training. She is certified in dog psychology, nutrition, and grooming, and specializes in basic and advanced obedience, puppy prep, and behavior adjustment training.


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