Friday, January 10, 2014

We Cracked The Nova Code

My apologies to all the friends I have secretly sniffed in trying to solve this puzzle.  For the record before this started I did not associate you with any particular scent (except maybe my Mom) and none of you smelled unpleasant, overwhelming, or like you wore too much (or too little) perfume or deodorant.  So sorry I had to investigate your smells to solve my dogs behavior issues. 

Nova likes some people a lot, she is neutral to most, and a very few people she just hates.  Since we got her it has been a bit of our mission to figure out what it is about those certain people that bothers her.  Our curiosity actually has a direct practical use because one of her hated people is my husband who not only loves her very much and would like to be her buddy, but also has to live with her.

Most people, an an attempt to be helpful, have suggested that she either does not like men, or the people who she doesn't like remind her of a person who abused her.  Thing is I really don't think she was ever abused.  I think that because she did not grow up around any people we are as scarey to her as any apex predator would be to any 6 pound wild animal.  People approaching her and then in the end trapping her probably didn't help her love of humans in general, but really in the end she was caught not by a specific person but in a cat trap with no one around and that is clearly the bigger trauma (or at least she shows a lot of psychological damage from that one).  It is a little annoying because instead of being helpful people just INSIST that she was abused, but really she shows no signs of it.

Also it is not men because her favorite person on the planet is a man, and one of her least favorite people is a woman.  In fact her least favorite people are different races, different sexes and are vastly different weights (one is a tiny twig of a woman and one is a huskier dude).  WHAT COULD THESE PEOPLE POSSIBLY HAVE IN COMMON???????

Well I got to thinking.  I don't think they remind her of a specific person from her past due to what I explained above.  So what if it is something the liked people have in common?  Or what if it is something more general?  What if some people are just more "people-ey" to her?  Maybe to her I am a strange alien species that abducted her and Ben is a human just like the humans she encountered on the street.  So I thought about that, and thought about that, and thought some more.  Time passed and I was back to thinking that maybe she hated people she met at 2 in the afternoon, or on a full moon or anything else.  Then months later my in laws were visiting (for the record Nova loved my mother in law, let my father in law pet her on the chin and was neutral to Ben's brother).  I'm not putting too much stock in the love of Ben's Mom because she is really pretty good with animals (having been a vet) and she literally dripped food out of her pockets/plates/bags into Nova's mouth.  It was a strategy that won over Nova and I think that at this point in her rehab she would be ok with anyone providing food in the house who I approved of.  It was not her winning over actions, but a comment she made that got me thinking.  She said "it could be something totally random like she doesn't like their deodorant."


I called her other hated people- and like a crazy person I asked them what deodorant they wore and what shampoo they used.  I was so excited until it all came crashing down.  Toms of Maine Apricot, Lush Powder, Suave 2 in 1, a generic shampoo for sensitive scalps...  Nothing matched up and I was off to square one.  Looking back it was so obvious.  So obvious it is painful.

A few days later we picked up one of Nova's favorite people and he got in the car.  Then I smelled it.  Old Spice.  I remembered how much she loved my Mom, and how I think of my mom every time I walk past a perfume counter at Macy's.  Then I thought of the perfume I sprayed on that morning.  Then I thought of all the products of the people who she hated.  THEY WERE ALL UNSCENTED!  Or at least "naturally" and mildly scented.  They were not antiperspirants, they were free and clear.  THEY SMELLED LIKE PEOPLE!  I smell like Elizabeth Arden Green Tea, my Mom smells like Elizabeth Arden Sunflower, her favorite person smells like Old Spice (he claims he does not actually wear the scent but apparently the deodorant smells enough that I got a whiff of it in my car so that's enough for Nova I am sure), another favorite person smells like Secret Powder Fresh.  They are not strong smells, but to a dog they must be very obvious.  I think the biggest factor is actually the deodorant, an antiperspirant with any stronger scent that we people might never smell would read loud an clear to a dog while still masking the regular people odor.

This makes me laugh because a while back we were throwing ideas around and thought maybe Nova hated hardcore environmentalists.  It was the only thing that was sort of in common among the people she disliked, but it didn't ever go anywhere at the time.  Turns out we were kinda right.  Wear ethically made in the USA organic deodorant and that dog is going to try to drive out out of her house.

Now the big question is will this make any difference in our daily life?  Has the damage been done or is Ben going to walk into the shower one day and emerge a different species according to Nova?  No way of telling until we give it a go, but I am waiting until we are prepared to do it all out before trying.

Now I am off to get some deodorant and matching cologne for my husband.  Any suggestions?  I am thinking Cartier.  Go big or go home right?


  1. That is fascinating and we'd love to hear if you make progress. We never ever thought about smells with one exception. Sometimes the simple answers are the solutions but we just don't see it. Have a super Saturday.
    Best wishes Molly

    1. Smell is the answer to many dog mysteries! They experience so much of the world through smell it is worth an extra sniff sometimes. Have a wonderful day Molly- we will be sure to update on our progress.