When you prepare to get a dog, you think about the special relationship between canine and human. You think fondly about the bonding, the long invigorating walks; you commit to carrying dog waste bags and trips to the vet.
One thing most of us neglect to consider is the smell – specifically, what dogs can do to the interior of a vehicle. People love dogs, but not too many are enamoured with the effect a pungent pooch can have on our olfactory systems.
Dogs and cars mix, but there's a cost. A few years back, a survey commissioned by the British cycling and automotive retailer Halfords found that "wet-dog smell" was the odour drivers hated most. Six out of 10 motorists picked it over such fragrances as "dried spilt milk," "child's sick" and "teenage B.O."
Having recently become the proud owner of a black lab, I'm getting the reality of this situation firsthand.
If you look up the definition of "wet dog" in the dictionary you will find a picture of a Labrador retriever neck deep in water in January and its owner in the background cursing. There are two rules about labs – they will eat virtually anything and swim in every body of water they encounter. It doesn't matter how deep, how cold or what's in it, the Labrador will dive in. They complement this behaviour by leaving a thin coating of hair on all surfaces. They can shed so thoroughly that a lab can leave its hairs in a house it's never been in.
After a few trips to the off-leash park – and despite towel-drying, combing and every other tactic we could try – pretty soon my anti-Porsche minivan began to smell like Giorgio Armani's newest fragrance, "Black Lab di Lake Ontario." There's not much to do but plug your nose.
Help may be on the way. Nissan recently unveiled a prototype Nissan X-Trail 4Dogs, a vehicle that will have you urging Fido to roll in the mud and dead fish. The X-Trail 4Dogs has a leather trunk interior with room for two dogs. It has a shower hose for washing your mutt and a blow drier to get their fur back in shape. It has a ramp for four-legged entry, a safety harness and a food dispenser so your pet can feed himself a treat whenever he likes (which if it's a lab means until it passes out).
"For their owners, dogs are a key part of the family," Nissan spokesperson Ryan Gains told the Daily Mail when the car was unveiled. "Ensuring their pet's needs are catered for is often just as important as making sure the children are comfortable and happy."
The X-Trail 4Dogs goes a little bit further than just "catering" to a pet's needs. If and when such a vehicle is one day offered, it will mean that dogs are being treated better than many humans. In fact, with a few adjustments, the X-Trail 4Dogs would make an affordable Vancouver bachelor apartment.
Of course, there is one market they have not yet tapped. When you have a dog, you try to get the smell out of the car. Once that dog is gone to the great kennel in the sky, you miss it. Perhaps Nissan or some other auto manufacturer could come up with "air unfresheners." Instead of dangling pine trees from our rearview mirrors, we could dangle dog cutouts with name such as "Spaniel Tried to Eat Puke Again," "Rescue Dog Rolled on Dead Squirrel" or "Lab du Lake Club."