Monday, January 28, 2008

Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name.

Today’s QC Report is brought to you by-

DRAGONS! RIGHT OUTSIDE! WALKING AROUND! POSSIBLY SHOOTING FLAMES FROM ORIFICES BOTH TRADITIONAL AND UNEXPECTED!

At least, that’s what the dog tells me.

He’s such a nice dog, our dog; genial to a fault, attractive without relying on it too much, produces slightly less than the usual amount of gas for his kind. He has only two foibles. For one, he’s still pretty certain that I not only will allow him on the couch, but actually secretly long for him to be on the couch, that my lips might say “No, no”, but there’s “Yes, yes” in my eyes. Since my lips are saying “OFF!” and saying it loudly and regularly, I am puzzled as to what mixed signals I am giving off; perhaps he takes running around the house looking for car keys as a coded signal that everything I have just said means nothing.

When I first mentioned this habit, a woman wrote in to say that his habit of jumping on the couch when I left the room for longer than thirty-five seconds was an indication of his respect for my being the alpha bitch in the household. I have no reason to disbelieve this, but if I get him a t-shirt which says “My mommy thinks I’m very important in my own special way”, can I please have a couch which doesn’t have a dog-sized divot cushioned in a nest of extra fur?

The smaller and yet more aggravating behavior is dragon patrol. I have had dogs nearly my entire life, and every one of them hated something outside our house with a pure fury that would nearly cause them to spontaneously grow thumbs, just so they could shoot a gun. One dog hated the sound of VW Beetles, viciously barking at the street long after the Beetle had entered another county. Another dog hated one dog that had the temerity to get walked past our house every day. All other dogs could pass, but not that one. The two dogs could meet on the sidewalk and be as agreeable as two acquaintances from the Ladies’ Auxiliary, but if my dog was inside, someone needed to die.

Still another dog despised skateboarding teenagers hanging out on the sidewalk using our driveway for trick-practicing. She viewed them working on new ways to fall as the blight shaped specifically by Satan solely to bother her. Coincidentally, this is also Consort’s reaction to skateboarding teenagers. When the boarders would start clustering, I would crate the dog, and go out to shoo them away. If they didn’t shoo, I would send Consort and the dog out to be so generally irritable that even hormone-saturated adolescent boys with untreated concussions would decide to leave.

But I knew what made each dog nuts. I’d live with it, I’d work around it; periodically, I would dole out Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic tranquilizer. This one is an enigma, wrapped in a puzzle, sporting a handsome collar. Once a day, he flies to the nearest window and gets very, very upset. His fur bristles, he bares his teeth, and he barks. Oh, does he bark, and he barks for about ten minutes. And while I love him very much, I cannot say that he has the most masculine bark in the world. I’m thrilled that he’s neutered, but did they have to do such a thorough job? It’s a ten minute ode to house-protectiveness as warbled by Tiny Tim.

And here’s the thing: there’s nothing outside. I mean it, not a single stinking thing which should be setting him off. Not a moving car, not a person, not a dog, not even a sheet of drywall leaning impudently. I know enough of the canine mind to look for the taunting squirrel or the neighborhood cat making rude gestures from a nearby branch, but neither exist. He can be in the back yard, or the front door, or any window in the house; the barking can happen first thing in the morning or nearly midnight. The only thing all the fits have in common is that there is nothing there. At first, I thought it was just that I didn’t move fast enough and had missed the thing which was driving him to tears, but then I noticed that he would see me and try to bring me in on it. We’d then have several fabulously unproductive minutes of my saying “What is it?” and him saying “BARK!”, until it would occur to me to get more information. I would then descend into reasoning with a dog, because that always goes well. Sooner or later, one of us would end up in the crate for a few minutes, waiting for our homeopathic canine tranquilizer to kick in.

Every day, for a few minutes, at a point which is as abundantly clear to him as it is maddeningly enigmatic to me, he has to lose his mind. Having consulted with dog-training manuals, I learned I was supposed to ignore him, which was easier when the mind-losing was in the back yard than when it was between me and the television. One night, a few weeks ago, the day’s bark came upon him when he was standing next to my bed. Being as I was sleeping at the time, I didn’t take this one with what might be called a Saint Francis of Assisi loving tolerance. I decided against ignoring and was about to drag him off to the crate when I caught a look at his eyes. Under his sumptuous lashes, he was terrified. My heart softened; he came to our house four months ago already fully-grown. He’s experienced things, and I’m guessing not all of them were pleasant. I scratched his head.

“Dragons again, dude?” I said. He thumped his tail. “Thanks for the warning,” I said.

He still has one fit a day. Out of habit, I still look outside, expecting to see something. Whatever he sees is warned off by his fierce falsetto and after a few minutes he lies down, having saved his family and home again.

19 Comments:

Blogger Suzanne said...

Oh, I know exactly what you mean!

My sweet little love-dog had been terribly abused before I adopted him, when he was only ten months old. He's now eight years old, and he still sometimes has bad dreams, whimpering and barking in his sleep. I think it's the dragons.

It breaks my heart.

11:00 PM  
Blogger berit said...

thank you for enlightening me on what the mysterious lurker was outside my windows. DRAGONS? who would've thunk it? i must hurry and buy some of that world famous dragon-repellant so that we also get a good nights sleep. alas, i shan't inform thing1 and thing2 (my heathens) to the dangers outside.
you're too much!

6:11 AM  
Blogger Valerie said...

we have a cat.

when Husband was working nights, the cat would jump in my lap, snoozing peacefully until...

he would snap to attention and look oh so intently over my right shoulder.

there was no way i was gonna turn around - i do NOT want to see the axe-wielding psycho about to dispatch me (but leave the cat intact).

6:12 AM  
Blogger Leta said...

I used to live with a dog named Max who - for the entire 12 years that I knew him - would randomly run to the window and bark up a storm. Of course, there was nothing out there out of the ordinary. So we'd joke about how he could see air molecules and was barking at the ones which were going the wrong way. I'd treat the barking like a Max-specific fire drill and go check what he was looking at (again - nothing) because, just like a fire drill, I'd hate to have been sitting on my butt ignoring a real threat the one time it was ever real. Max was a good guy. Please pet you dog for me.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our cat will run madly from room to room. After much deliberation and deductive reasoning, we now understand that she is chasing goblins that mere humans cannot see. Dragons are much scarier, but those goblins are darn pesky.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Thumper said...

I think my cats see the dragons, too... only I'm fairly sure when they're chittering at the window, it's an invitation to come inside and eat the rude woman who won't give them crunchy treats on demand...

4:44 PM  
Blogger OHN said...

Your "new" dog is very lucky to have you. We don't know what demons come with the ones that reach us when they are a tad older. I wish they could talk :)

What I really love is what you are teaching your daughter through your actions..some lessons are best learned through observation and it will make her a thoughtful loving woman someday.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Amie said...

Fireflies make my pit bull cry. (honestly) Who can blame him - they're willing to light their own butts aflame, who's telling what they'll do to us!

It's hard sometimes, dealing with a dog that has a past you can't fix with therapy or chocolate or even liver treats (if that's your thing).

But isn't it so worth it? No one else in the world loves you like that...

6:04 PM  
Blogger Mommy, the Human Napkin said...

Wasps. Our dog lived solely outside and hated wasps. Evidently, these wasps were the bane of his existence, because if they were anywhere in his air space, he would bark uncontrollably. Strangers? Solicitors? They got a good long stare, and that was it. We could have been murdered in our sleep by an escaped lunatic, but we could rest assured that we were fully protected from the evilness that is wasps.

10:19 AM  
Blogger John, famous in Siberia said...

Perhaps the dog barks for your reaction. Is there something you do everytime he barks? Go over and look out the window and pet him? Or maybe he just has PTSD.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Dawn Maria said...

Hello everyone! This is my first post, but I've been reading for a while now and finally got everything figured out to leave a comment!

We have a barker and I'd feel better if there were indeed dragons outside the door. One nice thing about Dakota's barking however, is that it is coded. We have the bark for those people we know and love, the one for strangers who dare to come to the door, the warning to other canines who pass in front of the house and the special bark for our Fed Ex driver who gives her treats whenever she delivers a package. So I can be anywhere in the house and know who is at the door. My only worry is that the barking is so loud the neighbors have figured out the code too!

2:07 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

I think you're right about the dragons. Here's why: Last night my daughter got to blow out one of her grandmother's birthday candles. This morning I was trying to pry out of her what she wished for. She said it was big, could help light out woodstove, and she could ride on it to school. She wouldn't neither confirm nor deny, but I know it was a fire breathing dragon, cause I know how she thinks. So I'm thinking that maybe our dragon is flying by your house, making your dog bark. Of course, right?

4:10 PM  
Blogger guerrilla girl said...

Mitzi the Wonderdog also would go berserk at least once a day for no apparent reason. After similarly fruitless interventions, I would just crate her in her pen to quiet her down. And finally realized, when she started reaching the door of the pen before I did, that was what she wanted. Something had rattled her or frightened her and she wanted the solace of her primordial dog cave. Even though she could have gone in there on her own, her little Eskimo brain needed the pack leader to tell her to go hide. We never figured out the source of her fear, but at least we learned how to bring an end to it more quickly.

And frankly, I'd never thought of dragons. I expect you're exactly right.

8:51 AM  
Blogger cbahm said...

One of those annoyed skateboarding teens isn't lurking around the corner with one of those "silent" dog whistles, is he?

12:24 PM  
Blogger su said...

I adopted a lab/Dane mix mutt a few months ago. Charlie has a bark that I discribe as a James Earl Jones bark if James were to chime in. Charlie spontaneously erupts at a falling leave outside the window, or a shadow from a branch on the snow, or the show as it falls outside. Charlie barks at reflections in the window of lights inside. He too, continues to bark once he begins even long after he has forgotten the original trigger, I know I've asked.
I laughingly call Charlie my "exterior decorator"
Charlie has a blog, Travels with Charlie

3:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You missed a comment!

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to find your blog, you're a very entertaining writer!
Our rescue dog Casey barks hysterically every time she hears a doorbell ring- although we don't have a doorbell and the only ones she hears are on tv.
Another dog of ours howls every time he hears a siren, which made watching "ER" really tough.
Luckily both have learned that the shout "it's on TV!" means its OK to be quiet.
It didn't take them long to learn it either (kind of surprising), while they still bark or howl they do stop pretty quickly (as soon as we give the "it's on TV" yell).
Maybe something like that could work for you?
Maybe something like "it's only dragons!".

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We adopted our dog last July. The vet says she is fiveish. She barks at aliens and sees them lots of places. I love that dog. Like your new dog, she certainly won the dog lottery when she came home with us.

Elle

8:19 AM  
Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

Valerie, is it possible that your cat is getting signals from The Cat Satellite?

At least once a day, our cats - many and varied, and strewn all over the house - would stop what they were doing, and look up. They'd start at the left, look ceilingward, and follow whatever was disappearing over the horizon on the right.

I always just figured it was The Cat Satellite. For all I know, it could have been dragons.

1:13 PM  

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