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Homer Licks 101

Okay, sometimes I get carried away!

Why do humans allow us to lick their hands and faces, when they know that we lick . . . other things as well?

Isabel isn't really unusual. Almost all of my human friends are happy to have me lick their hands and faces; which begs the question, are these folks in denial, or do they hold us to a different standard?

First of all, let's get the 'licking' issue out on the table. Most members of the human race believe that we lick your hands and faces because we love you. Wrong! Yes, in fact, most of us do love you, but, truth be told, we would love you just as much if we never licked your hands and faces. Members of the human scientific community have determined that the average human being sheds, or sloughs off -- more than 50 million cells per hour in the course of a day. Because we love you, or at least accept you as our alpha role models, we bask in your scents and odors; for us, it's sort of like . . . collateral catnip.

So, when we lick your hands and faces, we are in essence collecting a small part of you, just as we do when we carefully sniff our own species. If you haven't already noticed, once we have covered the territory from your forehead to your chin, we generally move on to enjoy other experiences elsewhere. Instead of being a 'love object,' you might just go ahead and consider yourself a short-term 'taste sensation.'

Shedding your skin cells is just the tip of the olfactory iceberg. For us each contact with you brings with it such things as wonderful food fragments, the delicious scents of other folks with whom you have been mingling, salt from your perspiration, and seductive fragrances of the perfumes and colognes that have been rotting on your skin for hours, or even days. Since many of these man-made 'scents' were created using animal by-products, they have very specific forensic appeal to us dogs.

Salt, of course, is the ultimate mother lode of that wonderful 'dermal potpourri' that is constantly leaching from your skin. Delicious thought? Have you ever noticed that we rarely lick if you have just washed your hands or face with soap and water? Unless we are truly desperate, and have nothing else to do, we will avoid this because we are not really into the taste of soap..

So, the old expression ". . .hang a roast beef around your neck and your dog will always love you." has some credibility after all. Come on folks, did you really think it was all about you?

Cats are a little more subtle. It is, after all, 'all about them.' They will eagerly rub their furrry little bodies against your legs while 'purring' to make you think they are totally happy and content. It's kind of like "whistle while you work," as they leave behind copious evidence of their presence on your clothing while marking you as their territory. You sit there and think "kitty really loves me!" And, when they lick you with their little sandpaper tongues, I think they're really just checking out your flavor in case they are called upon to devour you sometime in the future! They're just doing a job and purring while they do it. Pretty sneaky, I would say! Okay, so I don't entirely trust cats.

And for those of you who are able to justify 'licking' with the belief that 'a dog's mouth sterilizes itself several times an hour,' you're just suffering from a very common dog-lover's delusion. Actually, what we licked an hour ago will still be present in our saliva two hours from now.

Granted, we don't carry the terrible germs that your kids and grandkids encounter during a day at school. Mind you, human germs are proven to be the most deadly of them all. So, if you wish to continue being delusional, suck it up, enjoy the ride, and revel in the realization that probably no animal on earth is more germ-ridden than your school-aged child or grandchild. Bon appetit, y'all!

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