In the novel I just completed, The Porcupine of Truth, my characters come up with what I like to call the “theory of the dog park.”

They take a friend’s dog to the dog park, and they see the way the dogs interact, how they’re excited to see who is coming in to the park, and how they rush over and sniff them.

Because dogs do that, you know. They sniff each other. I won’t get more graphic than that. Because we humans, we tend to frown on the idea of humans displaying such behavior. It’s… I don’t know. Gross?

But it makes my characters think, just as it made me think, the first time I took Mabel to the dog park.

Look at the dogs, and how they are so interested in each other!

Look at the people, and how they stand around talking, displaying various levels of comfort in their body language. Some with arms crossed, some facing each other and really communicating. None down sniffing, though.

What are we afraid of?

Do we have the same impulse, to get to know who other people are? Or has it been snuffed out of us somehow?

I’m kind of kidding. And I’m kind of not. I do think dogs are better than people, and that their ability to show their keen interest in other dogs is one thing that sets them apart.

I feel very curious about people all the time. Perhaps that’s why I’m a writer. I want to know what makes them tick. I want to understand what they’ve gone through, and I want to know what they’d do in various situations. Sometimes when I’m driving, I get lost in my own fantasies about what people do in their private time, or what thoughts they are thinking when they’re driving.

I have the impulse to sniff. Metaphorically, I mean. And yet it scares me. Because people often don’t like to be sniffed. And there’s that awkward moment when you start to get to know someone, where you make eye contact and the unverbalized question is, “Is it okay for me to try to get to know you? How much is too much?”

Am I alone in this?

Am I alone in thinking that the world would be a better place if we sniffed each other more, at least metaphorically?