Scientists say that your dog will remember you and your scent forever. That your dog's memory is so complex, multi-layered, and astoundingly good, that she will remember how you look, your smell, your voice, movements, and any specific events and the emotions and feelings associated with you or even every person you've met.

While I’m impressed with this to no end, today, like every day, it’s more about both of us getting our steps in and her having a good poop.

Our walks start out the same way every day. I get up, come downstairs, kiss her on the head and scratch her butt while she stretches and turns in circles, so I can get all the itchy spots that cropped up during the night. Then she jumps in her chair, ready for me to put on her harness and scoop out her morning cup of kibble.

While she inhales her breakfast and chases it with a long drink of water, I get ready to take her outside for the morning walk.

I have a system. While she eats, I check the outside temperature, determine the proper coat and hat, put on my shoes, and pocket treats and poop bags. We meet at the back door, ready and delighted to be in each other’s company to begin the day.

At the end of the driveway, it’s her choice, left or right. This choice is made based on who has been on the street the night before: deer, wild turkeys, raccoons, or dumbass teenagers drinking down at the cul-de-sac and leaving a piss trail for her to investigate.

Today it’s a right and up to the main road, then across and into the development that was created maybe 20 years or so after ours, full of 1970’s homes that are extended ranches, center hall colonials and French Mansard style homes with three-car garages.

As we approach the mailbox of a brick colonial-contemporary-traditional kind of place, Hazel is sniffing like crazy, so we stop so she can perform a more thorough investigation.

I’ve read that when dogs sniff, they’re gathering vital information about their territory and all their four-legged neighbors. Is there a male rival nearby, a bitch in heat, or maybe a squirrel or mourning dove that hasn’t filed the proper paperwork? Sniffing offers a wealth of information, and a good Dog Dad knows this and encourages this necessary and enjoyable activity. It’s every bit as important as the walk itself.

She stays with the trail, from the mailbox at the end of the driveway and into the lower part of the lawn. Nose down deep in the grass, very focused, trotting back and forth—this is looking pretty serious.

While Hazel follows the scent I notice that the basketball hoop at the end of the drive is overgrown with trees and shrubs so only the backboard and rusty hoop show. This tells me that the kids—who once played “horse” with mom and dad and chose up teams from the neighborhood for half-court games—are grown and gone.

As I look, I think that I can see a faint remnant of a free-throw line, no doubt drawn multiple times with that big sidewalk chalk. Pretty sure that they had House Rules for the driveway; like, anyone over ten years old had to shoot from the line, and your toe better be at the backside of the line, not the frontside closer to the hoop.

The driveway is empty, but there are fading oil stains most of its length. That means maybe three kids, close in age, all with their first cars lined up. Mom and Dad, of course, parked in the garage.

The flagpole at the front door at one time held the high school colors, giving voice and support to whatever sports team was playing that season. The same kids that came to play kick-the-can on those warm summer nights now have their letter jackets wrapped in plastic and preserved in their upstairs closets.

Three of the four bedrooms stand empty now. Their walls are pocked with small squares left by double backed tape that held posters and photos in place, and then took the paint off against all the promises that it wouldn’t. Dad wasn’t happy then but isn’t ready to repair yet. A dusty trophy shelf, paint covered nails with no pictures, a coffee mug from the town festival, in it a pencil topped off with a high school mascot eraser, and a faded receipt. Still in all the stories remain, even with these few thin remnants from their glory days.

The front door itself looks like it had been freshly painted when the kids were little; could be they even helped with the job, to spend time with Dad. The blue they chose was the popular blue that year but now it’s sun-faded and the door looks a little brittle. But it’s home, and nobody is about to change it.

There’s a small red flag in the lawn from the service. They can have someone spray and mow now that the kids are grown and gone. It might look better than when the kids mowed it, but it doesn’t have the same soul.

Hazel huffs and sneezes, looks back at me as if to say, “Dude, you, OK? Let’s keep it moving.”

Hazel is half Beagle, half JackRussell Terrier, and can track scents that are left over the past days, months, they say even as long as a year or more. I’m Welsh Irish, and use my powers of observation, storytelling, and imagination, each informed by personal experience and the wistful sadness of how fast my life has gone by. It’s pretty easy for me to see decades into the past.

We make a good pair.

Her with her nose, and me with my heart.

As we walk down the street, she gets another scent and starts pulling me across the road into the line of old-growth oak, crazy ground-cover ivy and wild rhubarb.

I become aware of the freshening wind and turn to check behind us to make sure no cars are coming. When I get back in step with Hazel, I see a house coming up that I never noticed before, a toddler pedal car in the driveway; beside it, a small inflatable pool sits in the grass, water wings and pool noodles strewn about.

Hazel stops to sniff the air, no doubt catching the scent of kids now inside, enjoying much needed naps. I look at the scene through the lens of my memory, hearing shrieks of laughter, water fights, and the splashing of parents with pool water, and feeling the itch of grass clippings stuck to legs after running from pool to bathroom and back.

When we get to the stop sign, she stops and looks up for a scratch behind the ears, and I oblige, as I always do. I bend down and put my forehead against hers, as I always do, and notice the gray in her muzzle, as she notes the same in mine.