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