By Dick Wolfsie
I have just finished reading Alexandra Horovitz’s marvelous new bestseller “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Know and Smell.”
The book is mostly about the incredible sense of smell our canine companions have and how as humans we often overlook this sense (we always overlook our noses). In one chapter she describes a sight-seeing tour that’s really more of a sniff-smelling excursion. The guide takes you through the streets of New York City and points your shnozz to all the wonderful (and not so wonderful) urban aromas — from sausage to sewage, from sourdough to subways.
That book reminded me of a medical issue I have. I mentioned it several years ago in a column about growing old. I have pretty much lost my sense of smell. And it has gotten worse.
Many people wrote me and said I had a serious medical issue. Medical advice from friends usually stinks. Not that I would know what stinks.
There had been several indicators of this problem. When Mary Ellen, Brett and I used to sit in the living room watching the evening news, our dog was always at our feet. All of a sudden, both my son and my wife would start waving their hands in front of their noses. (The first time it happened, I figured I was blocking their view of the screen.)
“You didn’t smell that?” they’d shout.
“No, but I heard it.”
I checked the internet, and it looks like I may have a disorder called anosmia, which one expert claims is sometimes caused by intra-nasal drug abuse. I could be losing my memory, too, because I have no recollection of ever putting anything in my nose except a carrot at every New Year’s Eve party. I do this just so I can say, “My doctor says I’m not eating right.”
I am coping with my problem. For example, I now change my socks almost every day, because my previous technique for making that important evaluation is no longer effective. Has the cottage cheese in the fridge gone bad? Now I have to rely solely on the fuzzy green top layer to determine whether it’s a bad lunch option.
By the way, if you lose your sense of smell, it does a number on your sense of taste. I told my wife I’m enjoying her cooking more than ever. I stupidly thought she would take that as a compliment.
When some of the senses begin to fail, you can buy a hearing aid or a pair of eyeglasses, but the Brookstone catalog doesn’t contain a single gadget I could attach to my proboscis to help me compete with noses half my age.
One website suggested that if your sense of smell is impaired, you might want to employ a “smell buddy” — a person you trust to tell you whether you have foul-smelling breath or offensive odors in your home. I called my friend Bob to see if he qualified and was willing. I promised him a big donation to his favorite charity if he’d do it.
“This deal smells fishy to me,” Bob said.
I hired him on the spot.
Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.