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17 October 2005
They just do.
They bark at other dogs. They bark at the mailman. They bark at strangers' voices in the next yard.
Dogs are territorial and one reason we have them is because they are good watchdogs, a deterrent to all those criminals who are lined up down the block to break in and steal all of my furs, jewels, and dustbunnies, or to ravish this oh so abundant flesh.
I remember reading one of the Lad, A Dog stories, where The Mistress had a bad illness and was bedridden. The house was very quiet and The Master told Lad to be quiet. And Lad, being the Lassie of literature, understood completely and tiptoed around the house, making nary a sound.
When The Mistress recovered, the dog went on a joyous spree, barking and chasing livestock and raising a ruckus all over the neighborhood because he no longer had to be quiet and he was happy that The Mistress was OK again.
Sheila is not Lad. "Quiet" is not a word in her vocabulary.
Sheila and I are having a difficult time with barking.
It used to be that I let her bark at the dog in the back or at the mailman or at the ghosts who people her world for a brief time, and then if she didn't stop, I'd bring her inside.
That's before I started getting angry telephone calls from neighbors.
Now, in fairness, I have only had three telephone calls over the past several months, but they are angry enough that it makes me very leery about allowing her to bark at all. I certainly understand--I have occasionally been upset at a neighborhood dog, too, when its owners let it bark and bark and bark nonstop.
Having Katey here has been great because while Katey also barks at strange voices or the dog in the back, she comes racing into the house when I call her and then the two of them stay in for awhile until the bark urges have calmed down and they wrestle with each other, then they go outside and chase each other around until they are tired. Good Katey.
In truth, Sheila is much better about barking, but I fear that she is starting to associate barking with treats.
(The last because that's been a surefire way to get her to respond every time).
She's no dummy. I had this feeling that she was running outside to bark just so I would call her in for a treat. So then I went to intermittent rewards. She'd get a treat every second or third time she came in and only praise for being such a good dog and coming when I called her. But I still think, because she is much more intelligent than I, that she's figured out that somehow, somewhere that barking is connected to a treat if she can just get the timing right.
I can't keep her cooped up all day -- it's not fair to her. But I also can't let her out if I can't trust her to be quiet most of the time.
Ashley took Katey off to Petco to see if she could find herself a home (she did) and Sheila was completely lost. So she went out in the back yard and started barking. I brought her inside and she kept running back and forth from front door to back door barking and whining.
At the same time, the next door neighbors (the ones who complain) were in their back yard talking, so as soon as I would decide I couldn't take the pacing and whining any more, I let her out and she ran right to the fence and began barking at them.
Bring her back inside and the whining and pacing began again. (If Walt and the car hadn't been on their way to Lake Tahoe, I probably would have taken her out to the dog park to run off some of that frustration she was feeling.)
Part of the problem was that I wasn't working, but just "available." Once I sat down at my desk, she settled down, along the side of the desk with her head on my foot, but as long as I was sitting in the family room or in the kitchen, she was extremely restless.
Ashley showed up at the end of the day with Slingshot. I haven't yet been able to get a good picture of him, because he's a bit skittish, but this is a big guy, 8 mos old, who they think is probably part Great Dane, which would explain his huge paws.
(He thinks he's a lap dog, though, and when I settled into the recliner, he immediately climbed up into my lap. I was very sorry that Walt was out and I couldn't get a good photo of this huge hulk curled up in my arm.)
He and Sheila are getting along very well. When the door closed behind Ashley and Slingshot was still here, you could practically hear Sheila saying "Oh goodie! This one is going to stay," as she raced out the back door, inviting him to join her. The two of them tore around the yard, chasing each other, until they were both tired.
The jury is still out, in Slingshot's mind, about Walt. Walt came home so quietly I didn't even hear him. He didn't realize that Slingshot was here and the two of them surprised each other. Slingshot kept barking and growling at him, though he did finally calm down a bit, but if Walt moves, Slingshot goes and hides. He spent all evening curled up under my desk, which is fine until I actually want to use it.
PHOTO OF THE DAY