Poop and Bad Breath: making sense of the new virus rules
Among the differences between us dogs and you humans, at least once you reach a certain age, is the way you guys are so squeamish! Things that seem normal to us, or really terrific, nauseate you. You never sniff each other’s butts hello, you never roll around on dead animals you find, and you insist on cleaning yourselves with soap and water, instead of using your tongues the way we do!
So you might say we pups live in the world of the gross. The smells we seek out when you take us for walks are just the ones you go to great lengths to avoid. And we’re fascinated by watching you work so hard to get rid of them. Imagine how curious you’d find it if someone took good care of their garden but removed all the prettiest flowers and threw them into the trash. Well that’s what it’s like for us when you cover up all the most interesting smells and treats!
Now in the past few weeks, I’ve been watching you guys struggle with a completely changed world, a new reality. Where all the rules are unlike anything that was true two months ago: DON’T go to school, DON’T shake hands when you meet someone, DON’T go visit your grandparents, just STAY on that couch and watch your iPad and phone! HUH?!
Lots of you are extremely confused, especially about how best to stay safe: Wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask even though they won’t keep you safe, sanitize, moisturize… of course you’re all going cuckoo!
But I have a way, through my gross little brain, to help you out. It’s all about us dogs (isn’t it always!). Here goes:
First, if you’ve ever had a dog you take on walks, I hope you’re considerate enough of your neighbors to also bring along a bag or two, to clean up when we poop. (Yes, I said POOP! I told you, I’m pushing your nausea envelope today!) So when we plop out something you guys find stinky and distasteful, you reach down and put it in the bag. Right?
And you do it perfectly, right? Only the bag touches our nasty turds, right? No bit of your finger could possibly accidentally brush against it? And nothing sticking to the bag could get onto your hand when you tie the top into a knot, right? You’re ABSOLUTELY SURE?
Well, just to test your sureness, how about if a friend of yours offers you a handful of chocolate-covered peanuts. But you need to hold them in your hand, before you put them in your mouth.
Do you? I’ll bet you don’t!
In fact, I’ll bet you go, “That’s so nice of you. Let me wash my hands to make sure there isn’t any dog-doo on them, and then I’ll gladly take those yummy treats and devour them!” Or maybe it’s “Could you just put them into my mouth? I’m worried about what’s on my hands.” Or you even think, “Well I know nothing touched my left hand, so I can eat from that… I think!”
But as long as you don’t put your hands in your mouth, or touch your nose or eyes, or touch anyone else, you probably don’t worry about what might be on you, right? You might even be on an hour-or-two-long hike with your pooch, and very happy to wait to wash up afterwards. But you don’t put your poopy hands on your face! And that’s all that matters!
Now imagine you walk into your home after that walk, and there’s a knock on the door, and without thinking you turn the knob and open it. You chat with the person there, shut the door, and think, “… hmm… I shouldn’t have touched the knob, there might be some of that doggie’s poo on there.” So you wash your hands and the knob, right? But what if you forgot to at the time, and it’s the next day, and you realize, “Wow I should have washed that doorknob yesterday, when I might have gotten something onto it.” Do you feel you need to wash it now? Probably not. It’s been so long, anything nasty would have dried out or evaporated.
And this is exactly what the experts are saying to do about the coronavirus! Keep your hands away from your face, wash or sanitize often, and be aware that it can last on other surfaces but just for a time.
In other words, when it comes to your hands, there’s really no mystery about Coronavirus – just TREAT IT LIKE DOG POOP! Yes it’s potentially much more dangerous if you get it into your system, but the way to treat it is JUST THE SAME.
Okay, now, time for number two! (Yes, that’s a little joke there for those who get it. Clever pup, aren’t I!) And this one’s about Breathing!
Now I think my breath smells just great, but I’m not a new puppy anymore and my mouth has had lots of things in it over the years, and so I have… well… dog breath. And even it’s not as pungent as some other dogs I’ve known, like those with rotting teeth! So what would you do if your breath smelled as bad as ours? How would you keep your friends?!
Well, one thing you could do is to stay a little distance away from everyone. After all, bad breath is just airborne molecules, that dissipate as it gets further from the nasty mouth. Some say six feet (or two meters) and some say farther is better. But either way, just stay far enough away that others can’t smell you. But to be even safer, why not put a covering over your mouth, to keep all that stink inside, away from others?
Well that, my dear friends, is social distancing, and face masks! One of the worst things about Covid-19 is that a person can be infected with it but not feel it for a few days. So when it comes to dealing with others, act as if you know you have it! And since it, like bad breath, is borne in droplets in air, the way to do that is to stay six feet or more away from others, and wear a mask to keep the nasty stuff in. (Yes, there are fancier, more technological masks, that actually do help keep the person wearing them safe. But you don’t need that if you’re following the other rules; leave those for the brave selfless health workers who are getting right up next to people with the disease for hours and days and weeks on end. They need them; you don’t.)
Now there are those other rules to follow, of course. Stay home if you can, wash instantly if anyone coughs or sneezes on you, keep healthy, take vitamins and zinc and… oh you don’t need me telling you these things!
But if you can remember the rules of Poop and Bad Breath, you ought to be safe. Safe enough to get through this awful period, and move on to the sort of world we had and want to have again, a world where all your other problems, like about crushes and dating and anger and betrayal and embarrassment… those GREAT problems, become all we talk about again!