Monday, October 5, 2009

Lucy's Barking

I have a very sweet dog who sounds like Lassie when she barks. She is the same breed, a rough collie, and she goes by the name of Lucy. The first time we heard her bark was not long after we brought her home in 2005. We had built a fire in the fireplace and we brought her inside from the chilly 55 degree winter night (Orange County can be brutal) to be inside on her large pillow and enjoy a Christmas movie with the family. She took one look at the fire blazing out of control in our family room and began to summon the fire department for help. You could almost imagine the words she was trying to express, “Fire! Get out! Go this way... through this glass door! I’ll hold it back—with my incredible bark!”
There are times when it can be amusing to watch her use her bark to protect us. If someone is vacuuming the carpet or blow drying their hair while she is in the house—she will use her warning bark to remind us of her powerful presence and her ability to save us in the event the appliances should come to life and attack. She will protect us, even if it is dangerous to her.
Every once in a while she will bark in the night. We have become accustomed to this and we do what we can to stop her when she’s struggling with insomnia. Usually, the Alpha Male (my husband) will just call her name sternly out the window and she will give up on the cat or the opossum that is taunting her and go back to sleep. Last night, my brave little collie was not barking her usual bark. Her bark wasn't the Lassie-bark warning that “Timmy had fallen into the well!” It was much more agitated—even angry. To be quite frank, she sounded completely pissed off. It was a scary bark that woke me from the beginning stages of REM. Of course, my husband would sleep through a meteor shower at the foot of our bed, so I had to wake him to make her stop. (Remember—he is the Alpha and she doesn't listen to me.) He did the usual call, in his very deep Alpha Male voice, to make her stop. But, Lucy didn’t even miss a beat. She didn’t seem to care that the Man she adores was commanding her to stop. She just continued in her very angry-dog-voice-bark to yell at something in the yard. Now, for those of you who do not have a dog, you have to understand, it is completely embarrassing when this happens because now you know that not only have the neighbors heard the robust barking, but they have also heard the yelling to make her stop and the fact that she didn’t stop. Then, of course, being a Mom, you begin to wonder if they are thinking, “Wow, they can’t control their dog?! I wonder what their children are like! I bet they can’t control them either!” The whole situation leads to images of episodes of white trash TV!
Finally, to avoid having the police called and the one remaining teenager taken into child protective custody, the Alpha Male grabs a flashlight and heads outside. I don’t go along because I have to stay inside with the cordless phone ready to dial 911. As he heads out the door I am just thankful for two things. 1) He’s wearing a shirt—it would be very embarrassing if this escalates out of control and he ends up on COPS with no shirt. 2) He didn’t take his bow and arrow. Usually when he hears a noise he sees it as an invitation to act out his Tolkien fantasies.

Outside, the very loud and very angry dog is running in circles around a large pine tree in the corner of the yard. After a few minutes of shinning the light in the corners of the darkness, he sees the cause of the commotion. Hiding behind his mask, sitting on the fence is Mr. Raccoon. Mr. Raccoon is completely at ease and stares back at the Alpha Male and without speaking an audible word Mr. Raccoon says, “What are you doing in my yard and why is your dumb dog so loud?” Well, the Alpha Male stares back and says, “Well, buddy, the dog IS loud, so why aren’t you leaving?” Then Mr. Raccoon looks up in the tree. So the Alpha Male raises his flashlight to see, directly above his head, two little eyes (also hiding behind a mask) staring down at him from the tree. Mrs. Raccoon is watching all of the activity from her bedroom and while she is very annoyed at the racket, she is glad that Mr. Raccoon is wearing a shirt. After a few minutes of starring the Alpha Male does what any man would do at this point, he turns and runs excitedly into the house and into the room of his firstborn son—“Hey, there’s a raccoon in the yard!”
The young man happened to be on his computer “skyping with his girlfriend”, which, by the way is not an immoral act that teenagers do—it is using your web cam to have live face to face conversations with someone who is far away. So, because the Young Man is like the Alpha Male, he finds the presence of Mr. & Mrs. Raccoon fascinating and brings his computer along so that he can introduce them to his girlfriend. Now, the dog is still barking and the Alpha Male and the Young Man are laughing very loud and the girlfriend is stuck in the computer which is sitting on the patio table. Meanwhile, the noise of it all alerts the Daughter who is in the house watching Desperate Housewives. So, the Daughter (who wished to be called in this blog The-Sexy-Blonde-One-Who-In-Some-Ways-Resembles-Venus-The-Goddess-of-Beauty) went outside to see what the commotion was. When Mr. Raccoon saw the two crazy men, the girlfriend stuck in the computer, the loud angry dog and The-Sexy-Blonde-One-Who-In-Some-Ways-Resembles-Venus-The-Goddess-of-Beauty all staring up at him he decided that our family was more dangerous than he had originally presumed and he made his way high up into the tree to be with Mrs. Raccoon.
The insane group, that I like to call my family, then spends the next 20 minutes shinning the light into the masked faces of Mr. and Mrs. Raccoon while the collie continues to alert the entire neighborhood to their presence. The girlfriend in the computer begins to get cold outside, so The-Sexy-Blonde-One-Who-In-Some-Ways-Resembles-Venus-The-Goddess-of-Beauty carries her back inside to watch TV through the Skyp and finally, the Alpha Male and the Young Man move the protective collie to the garage to sleep on her pillow.
This morning I am peering out the window at my big tree, and I don’t see the Raccoons up there and I am wondering if they have already left for work. The radio is on and I am listening to the news stories from the weekend. I ask my Alpha Male, if the Raccoons are dangerous. Will they eat my cats? Should I be nervous? Within 4 minutes of my asking the question, the newscaster on the radio tells the story of a 74-year-old woman who was attacked by 5 raccoons. Apparently, a “gang” of raccoons attacked this poor woman in her backyard and she is fortunate to be alive. Now, these raccoons were living in Polk County, so most likely they have a different mindset than the rest of the nation’s raccoons—most of the country thinks differently than those who live in Florida. However, it is a little unnerving to think that I am sharing my yard with these little masked rodents who may at any time decide I would make a tasty snack.
I don't want to focus on the Florida Raccoon Gang and their sharp claws so I think about the whole picture from the night before. And immediately I am reminded of why it is okay that I spend $22.00 for a bag of dog food. I remember why it is alright that, annually, I pay the groomer more than my hairdresser. I recall that throughout the whole very loud event, which I am sure the neighbors thoroughly enjoyed, the one constant was my loyal collie. She recognized the danger that Mr. & Mrs. Raccoon possessed and she was angry that they would approach the home that she is destined to protect. She never wavered from her fierce protector mode, even when she saw their cute little faces. How wonderful to have such purpose and such resolve. I can learn a lot from my dog about loyalty. How ashamed am I that I don't know better than to trust the bark of the one who loves me.
Tonight it is quiet and I can type and wonder about the whereabouts of the Raccoon family, but, I don't have to worry about them sneaking into my yard to climb into their tree house unannounced. Because, after all, I have a very sweet dog who sounds like Lassie when she barks.