close up photography of adult black and white short coat dog

My dog’s got no nose.
How does he smell, then?

Actually, I’m writing about the loss of one sense – smell. Since suffering a (mild) attack of COVID-19 about a month ago, I have almost lost my sense of smell.

I can still taste things, which is a great comfort – I”d hate to be simply shovelling things into my mouth without tasting them. I enjoy cooking and I enjoy food and drink; without fetishising them, I hope.

But the loss of my sense of smell – one of those senses that we hardly notice most of the time – is actually quite a major thing.

Obviously, the smell of coffee in the morning is something of which you are probably conscious. If you bake bread, or fry onions, you notice their smell as you go through the process of preparing the food. Your soap and shampoo that you use in your morning shower are almost certainly scented.

But out and about? The smell of wet autumn leaves? The different smells emerging from different shops and doorways as you walk past? The smell of people? For yes, indeed, people do have a smell, whether they augment it with perfumed or scented or not. Toast burning. The smell of wet paint. Even farts. I am missing all of these. And quite frankly, it’s depressing. Something is missing from my life, and it’s not always immediately obvious what it is.

But what’s really irritating is that I can actually smell things – faintly at times, true – but only for a second or two at a time. The sudden whiff of coconut (in my shampoo) or a spice as I add it to a recipe, or as yesterday, two seconds’ worth of incense in the Requiem Eucharist for All Souls’ Day. Suddenly, I remember what it’s like to be able to smell things again.

The difference is amazing – it’s like switching from monochrome to full colour. And then it goes back to black and white again after a brief memory of what red feels like. Most disturbing and upsetting. I just pray that my sense of smell returns soon.