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Smell the Coffee: Ask not for whom the dog barks, it barks for me

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Confucius says a barking dog is often more useful than a sleeping lion.

But not to the barking dog's neighbor. Especially when the neighbor is grumpy and on deadline.

This particular dog would start a new series of ai-yi-yi's every eight Mississippis, although he occasionally miscounted by a second or two. For the most part, he was remarkably consistent. And he had been at it for hours.

The bad thing was that even when he did stop, my head would fill in the bark at that same pace anyway. Actually, the bad thing was that he was barking to begin with. That his owners either didn't hear him or weren't home or were choosing to ignore him.

To some degree, I could sympathize as I have my own obsessive-compulsive dog to contend with. As I typed these words, Murry, my 10-year-old Wheaten terrier, had been standing outside my home office door for nearly as long as the dog outside had been barking, except instead of barking, Murry had been licking the door.

Prior to being banished from my office, he'd been licking my chair, then my feet, then the floor. It's not a new thing with Murry. He's been obsessive-compulsive most of his life. He's a wonderful, albeit very dumb dog. I love him with all my heart, but there are times when he makes me crazy.

When he drinks water, for example. He drinks in fours. Lick-lick-lick-lick, stop. Lick-lick-lick-lick, stop. Never three. Never five. And always continuing until the bowl is empty. Out of curiosity, I've substituted his regular bowl with one that's much larger just to see what he'd do, but he refuses to drink from anything else. If his bowl got broken, I suspect he would die from dehydration. The dog is set in his ways.

When I complain of Murry being dumb, it's an observation, not me being mean. For instance, he occasionally likes to sleep under the bed. When he crawls under, he'll inevitably bang his head or back against the rails, making a somewhat gonglike sound which he mistakes for the doorbell. So after he gongs himself, he thinks it's the bell, immediately starts barking and races for the door.

Murry also takes his loyal dog code above and beyond. When I'm home, it's like I'm wearing Murry pants, except they're bagged down around my ankles. When I try to move, it's as if I'm trying to navigate around a constantly readjusting speed bump. He's where I am at all times.

If I get up at night to go to the bathroom, he sort of melts off the bed, with an awful thud-slump. He'll then stagger along behind me, head nodding pitifully as he watches to make certain he doesn't miss whatever service he believes he's there to provide.

He's the most dedicated of my staff. The cats regularly call in sick or show up late, if at all. They have attitude. Are total slackers. If I turn my back for a second, they're dunking my cereal or tasting my coffee or editing (via placement of their body) whatever newspaper articles they don't want me to read.

So really, in spite of my irritation with my neighbor's barking dog, I also have compassion for their situation. I know what it's like to live with a neurotic animal.

But.

After three hours of listening to that every-eight-seconds bark, I stomped out to my car, determined to track down the dog. What I didn't consider was that my ancient station wagon made so much noise it was impossible to hear barking, even a dog set up with a microphone and amplifier like I'm pretty sure this one had.

I don't know what I would've done if I'd found it, but it caused me to remember a joke about a blonde and her husband who'd been lying in bed, listening to the neighbor's dog barking. The blonde finally gets up and says, "I've had enough!"

When she finally returns to bed, her husband says, "That dog is still barking. What were you doing?"

And the blonde says, "I put it in our backyard. Let's see how they like it."

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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