The Language of Barks

When we moved to our current home, it was the first time my husband’s princess, Vala, had a view other than woods. There was a road that an occasional car went by. Once in a while an elderly lady walked her dog by. Occasionally ‘Santa’ would go past on a bicycle. Supposedly to lose weight but his pace is so sedate his bushy white beard barely stirs.

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That whole new world became hers to give loud commentary on. Squirrel? Bird? Her own cat sitting on his own porch? Everything was announced. And not only did she bark, she also body-slammed the huge picture window. One day I watched her hit the window so hard she actually did a backflip off the window onto the floor. Obviously that was a serious safety issue that couldn’t continue.

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And of course that barking infuriated me. She wouldn’t listen, she wouldn’t stop, the more I yelled the worse she got…until a friend explained how a dog’s brain worked. That she didn’t equate my yelling with her barking. That in her mind there was this horrible thing in the yard that she told me about and then I got upset so that must be a REALLY HORRIBLE thing that needed more announcing.

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Needless to say it took a bit to retrain both of us. My husband also built a big sturdy gate to keep her away from the window. The fact that she quickly learned to open the gate is another story.

At this point, she knows to bark and tell us something is going on, but she’s much better at stopping when told. She only body-slams the window when her arch nemesis goes by, but that’s also another story.

And I have learned to interpret her many barks so I also no longer need to rush to the window to see what is going on. Remember, we live in a community of maybe twenty-five people. Not a lot goes on even on a busy day. But when she barked, I had to run. Like I said, we’ve both needed training.

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Our ‘back yard’

There is a rather sedate bark that says somebody is going for a walk. There’s a more high-pitched bark that says ‘Zoe is out again!’ That’s come in handy because Zoe is the neighbor’s dog who isn’t supposed to be out again.

And there’s the frantic OH MY GOD IT’S THE UPS MAN!!! bark followed by the OH MY GOD HE’S COMING TO THE DOOR!!! extremely more frantic bark.

The UPS driver is terrified of her. She’s a Rottweiler and she’s barking madly at the window. I keep telling him to trust me enough to allow me to open the door. Because once the door is open, her job of alerting us is done and she loves everyone. Seriously. She’s a sweet girl. She is most emphatically not the guard dog in our family. That job belongs to our old lumpy girl, Arwen.

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Caught in the act

Matter of fact, the one and only time in Vala’s life when she actually listened to me and came immediately when I called was when she was running from a bear. She flew right inside the cabin then turned as if to say ‘hope you’ll be okay out there’.

But anyway, the UPS guy doesn’t trust me. He now stands out near the street and waits for me to come to him. I hate it when my husband orders something heavy.

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So for the past week we’ve been down with the flu, which triggers latent asthma so I end up sleeping sitting up. A couple nights ago I was out in the living room sleeping in the recliner, when I woke up about three a.m. to an odd sound.

Vala was growling.

No barking, no dramatic body-slamming. Just this actually quite sinister sounding growl. I’d never heard her do that before. So, a bit nervously, I peeked out the curtain. And saw nothing. But she was on her perch, staring out the window, and still growling. I waited and watched. And here, coming through the trees and into the front yard was a lone coyote. I hit the porch light and it took off, and all was fine.

I realized two things from that odd little moment.

  1. When Vala is barking her fool head off and body-slamming the windows, it’s all for show. Maybe even just a show for us so we believe she’s doing her job.
  2. Or maybe there is a little guard dog inside her and maybe when she’s being quiet is when we need to pay attention.

Or more likely, she was being so quiet because that was the one thing she didn’t want noticing her.

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