A few days ago on social media, former colleague Tes Jackson O’Field complained about the neighbor’s dog barking incessantly. She wanted suggestions on how to get it to shut up.
I was surprised I didn’t see anyone suggest a bullet. We often pick up reports at the paper from people who found their dogs murdered. The culprits are rarely caught, but I remember one case in which the killer admitted his crime, using as an excuse the now-deceased dog's constant barking, befouling neighbors' lawns with feces, and in one case had bitten a grandchild. Also, the late canine had impregnated the neighbor’s dog, which was a problem not only because he had an unwanted a litter of puppies to contend with, but the roving-eyed Rover doing the deed was a “mutt.” Perhaps had it been registered with the American Kennel Club, its life would have been spared.
I’m no expert at silencing a dog. I can’t even get our aging white cat to shut up. The moment he hears my husband getting up at 5 a.m., the cat begins to yell, asking for the treat that encases his morning thyroid pill. I have tried suggesting, “Shut up, cat.” He doesn’t listen. I’ve also tried inserting his name (Zeus) or his species (cat) into rock songs. I’ve been told this is normal behavior for pet owners. Still, no results.
If you’re on social media, you've probably seen the video of the hiker in Utah who happened to pass by some cougar cubs. Mama cougar didn’t care for his presence, so she followed him along the trail for a distance, hissing and occasionally charging, with front legs outstretched in a sinister welcome, but stopping short of the embrace every time. The intended victim videoed the confrontation while backing up rather quickly. Some of the shared videos labeled it as an attack, but that’s not accurate. The cougar only wanted the human to get away from her babies; if she wanted to attack the fellow, he would never have seen it coming, and his throat would’ve been ripped out before he could say "hey-diddle-diddle."
Fascinating thing about the video was the way the guy talked to the fearsome felid. This was the most extensive use of F-bombs in one setting that I’ve ever witnessed, for which the guy made no apologies, but he also loudly urged the cougar to “go back to your babies!” Several times he hollered at her, “I’m big and scary!” and belted out a cat-like shriek. He did not dissuade the cougar; only when he had the presence of mind to stoop, pick up a rock, and lob it at her did she turn tail and flee. But while I was showing the video to my husband, one of the victim’s screams did freak out our house cat, who indignantly yowled “WARP!” and dashed up the stairs. Even at age 15, the cat often dashes through the house, eyes bugging and emitting weird noises. Early on, we advanced the theory that this cat is an alien, and nothing has happened in the ensuing years to make me change my mind.
My husband refuses to let me get a dog. He claims it’s because dogs are too much trouble and that we travel too much, but I suspect it’s really because he was so attached to our German shepherd, which died many years ago, that he just doesn’t want another dog. My mother was like that about a German shepherd we had as children. This dog used to sleep outside my parents' bedroom window at night in a hole she'd carved out in the dirt. A favorite family tale tells how the dog kept barking repeatedly one night until my dad finally bellowed, "SHUT UP, GRETA!" The dog was quiet briefly, but then she just couldn't help herself: She began to say, softly and tenderly and barely audibly: "Rrrrrooof! Rrrrrrroooof!" It works better telling the story than writing it.
In my experience, small dogs make more noise than large breeds. When I was a kid, my Aunt Pauletta had a pampered Chihuahua named Chica, which my grandmother often babysat – an event that frequently coincided with weekly summer visits from one or more grandchildren. Chica did not like us grandkids. She was always under the couch, yapping and nipping at our ankles. I wasn’t especially sorry when Chica finally died, and my grandmother confessed she wasn't, either, but she suggested we not mention this to Pauletta.
Rex and Tammy Guinn, a couple of friends of ours who live in Tulsa, have two dogs: a service-dog golden lab named Diesel, and a miniature Yorkie named Sassy. Diesel rarely barks, but Sassy will cut loose fiercely at the first knock on the front door. Her barking doesn’t bother me, though, because she does like Chris and me, although she has bad breath.
I’ve been told there is such a thing as a barkless dog, bred to be that way. I can't attest to that, but I have known a barkless dog, born to be that way. One of my best friends in high school, Lisa Smith, had a collie named Lucy who had something wrong with her vocal cords, so when she barked, she was just going through the motions. Although Lucy wasn't deaf, you could tell by varying expressions on her face that she believed herself to be barking. I regret to say that I and another friend of ours, Diane Stotts, would coax the dog into barking so we could have a laugh. We usually accomplished this by wailing like a siren. Lucy eventually seemed to realize her barking was ineffective because when we started making fun of her, she would get an embarrassed look — hang-dog, if you will — and slink away until she forgot about the ridicule. The only other barkless dog I know of belonged to a friend in college. It made so much noise that he had its vocal cords removed because he was about to get evicted from his apartment. It didn’t help that a neighbor threatened to shoot the beast.
As far as Tes' situation, the only thing I can come up with are earplugs and a nightcap or three. That oughta do it.