Wednesday, January 5, 2011

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Dogs and Snails

By Fred
I've been sick with a sinus infection for over a week now, and everything is in slow motion--or rather I'm in slow motion and everything else seems in a blur, including Berkeley's rapid-fire waggy tail.

Coincidentally Cheryl gave me a really nice book, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, for Christmas, written by a woman who is very ill and spends most of her day at home in bed. One day the woman's nurse brought in a plant from the garden to put by her bed, and the plant had a snail attached to it. In her condition the sick woman found great comfort in watching the snail moving at such a calm pace, so she made a pet of her snail, feeding it mushrooms and learning all she could about snails, which turn out to be pretty smart creatures. When they find a new food, for example, snails will take only a single bite and then will go away and wait for day to see how the food agrees with them. Snails see and smell from their little antennae, waving them in all directions when a new scent is in the air.

So, yesterday Berkeley was pretty frustrated with my slow-motion self. No long walk in the neighborhood, sorry. No trip to the store. I watched her play in the back yard for a while. Suddenly she stopped and held her head up high, sniffing the breeze intently, stretching out her neck to the limit. What is going through her head, I wondered. I was reminded of the snail wiggling it antennae wildly over a mushroom.

In the snail book there's a quote from Helen Keller, who wrote:
Touch sensations are permanent and definite. Odors deviate and are fugitive, changing in shades, degrees, and location. There is something else in odor which gives me a sense of distance. I should call it horizon--the line where odor and fancy meet at the farthest limit of scent.

A picture of Helen Keller reading Braille with her left hand and petting her dog with the other handI like the part about "odor and fancy" meeting.

No surprise that Helen Keller was very fond of dogs, was always with dogs, though apparently she never used one as a guide dog, at least not in the way they are used today. I'm not sure how she felt about snails.

"What did you smell out there," I asked Berkeley when she came back inside. She looked at me and just laughed, like I could possibly understand.

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