Tango was a regular companion for 2 1/2 years with my husband as he visited his mother at the assisted living facility each week. My mother-in-law died earlier this month and we were invited back to the assisted living facility for a memorial service in her honor. We took Tango, of course, as he was as much a part of their family as he was ours.
We hadn't been back to the assisted living facility with Tango in over three months. The last place he'd visited my mother-in-law was the hospice house.
After the memorial, we were walking through the facility visiting some of my mother-in-law's friends one last time before we left. We had to pass my mother-in-law's apartment to get to the exit. We approached from the opposite direction we normally went.
As we approached her apartment, not intending to stop (as there were new residents in the apartment), Tango stopped. So, of course, I stopped. Tango looked at me (his signal that he'd like permission to go sniff). I glanced curiously at my husband; surely Tango didn't remember that this was her place? To our surprise, he walked right over to her door and sniffed under it. He then looked at us as if to say "Here's where you want to go, silly. You were going to go right past."
We couldn't go in, of course. So he looked a little confused when I called him away and kept walking. I don't know he remembered the actual apartment or if it was the scent – or maybe a little of both – but it really brought home to me how aware our dogs are of their surroundings.
I've read that scent invokes strong memories for humans. What summer memories come rolling in when you smell fresh-cut grass first thing in the spring, how you're transported right back to age 8 when you smell fresh-baked apple pie (or whatever scent you've associated with childhood)… I wonder if it's the same thing with dogs? Curious phenomenon, for sure.