Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Clear And Present Danger

Our dog Ally takes her responsibilities very seriously.  Apparently she has decided she is responsible for the safety of the republic, said republic being not only our house and garden, but the street and anything within a quarter mile of home as well.

A passing raccoon or skunk in search of a snack, a neighbor walking his dog, all are announced with teeth-jarring barks.  A normally calm person would soon be reaching for the Valium.  I am not a normally calm person.  Fortunately I also am not a Valium fan.

As these events often occur late at night (the neighbor's dog) or in the wee hours of the morning (the skunks and raccoons) sleep has become a precious thing, much interrupted.  Coffee, once a pleasure, has become a necessary precursor to prying our eyes open.  The sort of sleep that deals with knitting up that raveled sleeve of care?  Our sleeves are in tatters.

During the day, it's the squirrels and birds that get her attention.  Pray that you are not holding anything sharp, or anything liquid, when she sounds the alarm.  We have several stains on the kitchen rug, now fading, and a good number of nicks and dents in the counters (and our hands) that testify to the quality and volume of her bark.

She is part Basenji, and if you are a dog person then you know the African Basenji is a barkless dog.  Apparently Ally didn't get the memo.  During the day as you are trying to get  bit of work done, the dry cleaning delivery is announced with several minutes of sharp crisp barking, made worse by the delivery person trying to make friends with the dog thru the door.  The same chorus announces the arrival of the mail, the neighbor children returning from school, the neighbor's gardener, and anyone driving by.  She seems to take special offense at real estate agents trolling the cul-de-sac.  

A few evenings ago just before dusk, Ally was barking like the Visigoths were thundering down the street.  Having never met one, I opened the front door to look for Visigoths, and she shot out between my legs, disappearing around the corner of the house while barking like a madman.  There was a brief scuffling sound, after which she parked herself at the bottom of a big tulip tree, and proceeded to try to wake the dead.  

Wally looked up into the tree and said "Oh, of course."  
Two young raccoons, more pissed off than scared, and rather pleased at Ally's frustration.  We finally put her in the house and shut the door so they could climb down and be on their merry way.  I'm sure we'll be hearing more from them later.   Probably in the wee hours.

I know Ally is disappointed in our sense of smell.  We are disappointed in the length of her memory - the command "Quiet!" does not seem to be in her vocabulary, no matter how much we try to teach her.  The fact that the same skunk ambled by just a few minutes ago does not seem to lodge in her memory.  Or maybe she is worried we are unaware of the grave danger posed by the passing skunk...or realtor.

We finally bought a bark collar, one that gives her a gentle shock when she barks. (I tried it - it feels like the pinch your mother gave you as a child when you misbehaved in public).  When we (she) first took it for a test drive, there was a loud bark, a surprised little yip, then just quiet grumbling.  Lots of quiet grumbling.  I swear she can talk.  

The only disadvantage of the collar, apart from the humiliation Ally lets us know she is suffering while wearing it, is that she cannot bark to be let in.  There was one early fall afternoon when she was not in her usual place by my side, so I went in search.   I found her patiently standing by the back door.  The look of reproach she gave me was eloquent, and she now wears the collar only when there is an unusual amount of activity in the neighborhood.  And during skunk and raccoon dating season.

She is the most intelligent and engaging dog we have ever had.  She does not suffer fools gladly.  She is an excellent judge of character.  She has never bitten a stranger.  She only snaps at people who are overly familiar, and only growls at people who are insincere, or not trustworthy, or mean.  I concur with her on all points.  I have, on more than one occasion, wanted to snap at someone who took my arm against my wishes, and leaned in for unwanted and unwarranted confidences.  I have more than once wanted to growl at the shallow, the insincere, the duplicitous.  Instead I have plastered a smile on my face and said "How do you do?" or something equally inane.

Ally may be on to something.  

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