Sunday, November 14, 2004

Adventures with dog

With the days getting shorter and Clementine the Dumb but Pretty Hound-dog unable to grasp the concept of Daylight Savings Time, she's been bugging me for the end-of-day walk earlier and earlier. Today it happened to fit in with some afternoon apathy about work, so we did the rare 4:00 walk. It was a good afternoon for it. We've had a wonderful Indian summer -- without which it seems nearly impossible to say goodbye to autumn. But now the sky is getting more overcast. Birds aren't singing anymore, and the crickets don't chirp at night (although by Paul Harvey's folklore, that should mean it's 40 degrees out, right?). I felt like altering the scenery from our usual walk, so I took Clem up a different street. And then the Afternoon Barkfest Lollapolooza started. Our first contestant was a terrier who was on lookout, as terriers always are. He turned out only to be the Early Warning Device for a large brownish-mass of dog and several auxillary dogs. As Clementine passed by, they set up a barbershop quartet, with the terrier getting in four clarion notes for every one cannon blast of the mass.

This alerted a matching pair of light and dark labradors, side-by-side in chain link enclosures, and they immediately weighed in with an almost identical baritone bark only slightly off tempo from each other, like an irregular heart beat. For some reason, the light lab decided that the dark lab was really the bigger threat and turned to direct all future exclamations to him, with him returning the favor. They looked like a pair of bookends turned toward each other.

We rounded the corner of the short street and entered the homestretch only to encounter the Mutt and Jeff team -- big black mutt and lhaso apso. Both had ample warning of our approach from the 21-gun salute around the corner, and they lost no time in setting up their own protective barrier of sound, managing between the two of them to make a nearly continuous noise that hiccuped high and low. In this part of the pageant, the visual is more impressive, I think, because the lhasa apso gets so incensed that the force of the bark seems to lift it off the ground. The mutt-basso carries further, but it's not half as interested, and its tail is usually wagging, spoiling the effect.

And then -- yes, it's the crowning achievement. A Brittany spaniel across the street whose bark has such a high and cutting edge to it that it actually makes Clementine whip around as if it's the first one she's heard all day. I don't know what it is that's so particularly piercing about that one, but it has the effect of setting all the contenders -- terrier, mass, others, yin/yang labs, Mutt and Jeff -- back into full cry. It's like the last incredible fusillade of fireworks before it's time to go home.

Eventually though, they fade. The Brittany with the descant lasts the longest, but finally when it has neither sight nor smell of Clementine -- that impertinent strumpet! -- it wuffs a last time and trots away.

That was fun, guys. We'll do it again tomorrow.


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