“It’s a dog’s life”, so the saying goes. Until a couple of years ago, I’d always assumed that this was a negative analogy – that living “a dog’s life” was not a desirable thing. Then Nitro the two-toned Cavoodle came into my world. Having closely observed his life over the past two years, I’m beginning to re-assess my position. Sure, some dog’s lives are miserable. I’m especially happy that I don’t live a Thai dog’s life – scruffy, scabby and scavenging crap off the street. And there is no doubt that Nitro sits comfortably on the spoiled side of the scale: fresh meat twice a day, constant company, at least a couple of kilometres worth of daily walks and hours upon hours of nap time. That’s a dog’s life I’d gladly swap for. Then there’s all those weird doggie rituals like pissing on poles (or in Nitro’s case: poles, shrubs, steps, sand castles, sea weed and the occasional unguarded garment or handbag). Our outings are punctuated by piss stops, all following the same pattern. First, Nitro stops at a previously sprayed pole (or whatever else). Then his nose hovers about it, nostrils all a twitter. In fact, I think these piss poles are the canine equivalent of Twitter or Facebook – leaving each other messages about where they’ve been, what they’ve been eating or drinking and who still has balls dangling between his legs. I’m sure Nitro can distinguish the scents of a good number of different dogs who have all graced a particular pole. Once he’s worked out who’s recently visited the site, Nitro lifts his leg and leaves his own message, careful to ration his precious piss. Then off to the next one. If we are venturing outside his usual territory, these stops become more frequent, until he is spraying nothing but vapour. Should we come across an actual living, breathing, dog, then a whole new set of rituals kick in. First there is the stand off – both dogs facing off at a distance proportional to their mutual suspicion. Any sign of tail wagging is good. They then come together, almost touching noses. They can either rotate around each other for a bit, until one of them goes in for a butt sniff, or a bolder dog can cut to the chase and stick its nose straight in with no invitation. Usually this is accepted but on occasion it is not and there may be a snarl or a snap to warn off an over familiar approach. Once the initial sniffer has worked out what the other dog has had for breakfast, then their bits will be offered up for a receptacle sniff. After each dog is satisfied, it may be time for a game of chasy or some doggie wrestling (when Nitro does this with a fellow Cavoodle, I call it ‘Cavoodling’). Or sometimes, one of the dogs will then simply ignore the other and go about its business. All up – it’s strange behaviour. Imagine what it would be like if our species had the same sort of social rituals. I’m walking along and I see this guy approaching me. We both stop, sussing each other out. I see that he’s younger than me, muscular with bristle-like short hair. A couple of tatts are poking out from under his sleeves. I do not want to piss this guy off. He slowly starts to approach me and I cautiously follow suit. As we get close we both start sniffing and slowly rotate around each other. He smells of tobacco and sweat. I stop. He walks behind me, bends down and puts his head under my butt. I can hear him inhaling deeply, taking it all in. After a few moments he slowly straightens up and walks in front of me, his backside turned in my direction. I carefully lower my head until I can see nothing but his butt. He is wearing faded jeans. I breathe in and am overwhelmed by the bouquet. This guy is obviously a huge curry fan. I can smell at least three different flavours, including a particularly pungent beef vindaloo. Wow. He starts moving away. I stay put. He goes over to a nearby pole. He unzips his fly, hauls out his hose and has a spray. Nice stream. Once he’s done, he packs away his junk, zips his jeans and wanders off. I wait a moment and then head straight for the pole. His piss is still sliding down, forming a little yellow pool at the pole’s base. I take a good whiff. Ah – a VB man. Makes sense – some beer to wash down all that spice. And it would seem he’s still in possession of his balls – no de-sexing for this dude. Ok – my turn. Out comes my somewhat smaller hose. Now to wash away all that cheap crap beer with the fragrance of some high end Belgian stuff. Right – that’ll do. Need to save some for later. Who knows what awaits. Oh! There’s a pack of drunk chicks across the road. Better head over and give them a sniff.