Lucky Buddy Bear Is On Alert No Matter What The Weather
Note: After writing this essay (which was supposed to only be one paragraph), I decided that it needed a title, and "A Place To Bark" immediately popped into my head--probably because it's the name of the non-profit animal rescue run by one of my new favorite people in the world, Bernie Berlin. Talk about perfect timing. I had planned to write about Bernie and all that she is doing to singlehandedly save hundreds of homeless dogs and cats literally destined for death when she had her benefit art auction on ebay up and running. . .well, the auction has begun! I still want to borrow her name for my title, so I thought it only appropriate to mention her here.
If you love animals and want to see the amazing difference that one person can make in the world, check out Bernie's blog, A Place To Bark. . . And Meow. Just be sure to grab a tissue first--I don't think I've ever made it through a single post without tears streaming down my face (the good kind). Attention all you art lovers: Click here to go to the ebay auction site where you can support Bernie's animal rescue efforts and purchase one of a kind, donated artwork at the same time.
There's a scene in Larry McMurtry's book, Texasville, when Duane's dog Shorty is yapping incessantly, and Duane's wife Karla says, "Instead of getting him neutered, we should have had them take his barker out." Years after first reading it, I still find that line hysterical. I just love the image of a dog having a removable barker. That said, I think one of the best things about living out in the country, miles from the nearest neighbor, is that your dogs can bark as long and as loud as they like. And if you're smart, you quickly realize that is exactly what you want them to do.
When I adopted Rex as a six-month-old puppy from the local animal shelter back in 1992, I was living in a tiny house on a tiny lot in the middle of a sprawling Northern California city. Rex quickly grew into a 95-pound lovable behemoth who spent most of the time lounging around the backyard. Apart from the fact that he routinely (and mysteriously) escaped from said yard while we were at work, he was extremely well-behaved. (I would return home to find him grinning and bouncing around the tiny front lawn, which happened to be surrounded by a little white picket fence and thus acted as a giant playpen. To this day I have no idea who kindly kept sticking him in there.)
Rex may have been an escape artist, but he was a very quiet one. He did not whine, and he rarely barked. I don't recall ever having to tell him to hush. Every 10 days or so, he would let out one deep, bellowing woof, and then he would give me a look that said, "I couldn't help it, Mom. I was about to explode." And I always told him that I understood completely.
Rex clearly realized that, hard as it might be, one must strictly obey certain noise ordinances when living in a crowded urban area. As soon as he moved to remote Windridge Farm, though, he instinctively knew that the rules had changed, and he immediately began making up for lost time. He barked at absolutely everything. He barked at squirrels and birds in the trees and airplanes that soared overhead and cars a half mile down the driveway and faraway hounds in the woods. Sometimes he simply barked for the sheer joy of being able to do so. It was wonderful.
Now I live with Robin and Bear, and they both take their guard dog duties seriously. These duties mostly include barking of course, and sometimes the two of them go at it all night long, bravely protecting us from monsters and unknown enemy attack. And although their yelps and howls often wake me up, I never get angry or annoyed. It's reassuring to hear that they are hard at work, and it's easy to fall back to sleep because I know that I am safe.
I have also come to know their many different barks along with their corresponding meanings. I can easily tell, for example, if they are barking at something that is far off in the distance or right here in the yard. And so early this morning when both dogs began simultaneously howling their heads off while I was still padding around the living room in my slippers, I knew right away that something they considered very bad was not far from the house. And I was right. I opened the back door in time to see Bear race across the lawn, shoot through the fence, and tear up the wooded hillside after a coyote, letting out a stream of ferocious woofs the entire time. Robin was nearly as loud and not far behind.
The coyote count far outweighs the human one in our little valley, and if I'm outside at night I can often hear packs of them singing to the stars and the moon. That's one of the other great things about not having any neighbors--you are free to howl right back at them, and so I usually do. I used to think that glimpses of coyotes were more common in the days after snowstorms because the animals were driven out of hiding in search of food. This morning, though, as I watched that grey-brown, furry body and bushy tail lope off into the woods, I realized that I was probably wrong. The coyotes are always close by--they're simply easier to see against a snow white backdrop. It's not a very comforting thought, but I know I need not worry. My loudly barking dogs are on the job.
Attention Dog Lovers! This is Weekend Dog Blogging #63!
Head over to Sweetnicks every Sunday night for the complete roundup of cute canine candids. Wanna join in? Just post your pup and email the permalink to Sweetnicks.
A year of Daily Photos ago:
Another Same Scene, New View Series