Dogs are everywhere and if you’re walking with Dusty T. Dog in the evening, it is never a casual walk. It involves strategy, lightning reflexes and a good, strong hand on the leash. Why?
Dusty T. Dog is known in his inner circles (me) as “El Barquero Grande.” Part Doberman Pinscher part Labrador retriever (two barky dogs), Dusty T. Dog has a formidable and quite barbaric “Yawp.” It usually means, “Hey Dude, ‘sup?” But you’d never know that. And, if Dusty gets “wound up” — shudder.
My neighbor in CA wound up Dusty with the intention of getting Dusty to bite him. He hated my dog (I kind of don’t blame him) and wanted him hauled away and put to sleep. What my neighbor didn’t understand is that, because they were seldom at their house — it was a part-time home for them — Dusty felt it was his duty to protect everything in sight, all Dusty was doing was protecting that man’s house from intruders. He also didn’t understand that Dusty loves his yard and he loves people.
It got very ugly with a note pushed into my fence saying the neighbors were all afraid of my dog, that my fence wouldn’t keep him in the yard, that there was fecal matter everywhere because I didn’t clean up after my dogs (completely untrue as I have always done that daily), that the cops had been called. In reality, Dusty COULD but wouldn’t jump the 4 foot fence and, when I was not home, Dusty and the girls were all confined to a 100 square foot dog run behind a 6 foot fence. The dogs were always inside for the night by 8 pm so it wasn’t a question of their barking all night, either. Most of all, if the neighbor had ever come into my yard and met Dusty, he would have understood the whole story, but it was more interesting for him to curse and yell and bait my dog and call the cops.
So the Animal Control officer came out and I happened to be home. I saw him taking photos of the yard from outside the fence. Dusty liked the guy and was just standing beside the fence waiting to be petted. He didn’t bark. I let the guy in, showed him the dog run — into which all the dogs happily ran when I said, “Go to yard!” — and explained our routine. The guy looked for fecal matter and found none. Then he said, “One of your neighbors complained.”
“Yeah, I know. I got a letter from them.”
“Can I see it?”
I went in the house and got it for him while he hung out with “The Models” (my Siberian husky girls) and El Barquero. After he read read it he said, “I guess I need to talk to all your neighbors. I’ll get back to you. Sounds like a problem between neighbors more than a problem with Old Dusty here.” Dusty was leaning against the guy getting his ears scratched and groaning happily. “I wish every dog complaint I answered was like this one. This is Dog Heaven.”
I felt tears welling up.
The upshot was my neighbors were educated that I was a very responsible dog owner but I would be taking steps to keep Dusty quiet. I ended up buying a bark collar that was supposed to train Dusty while I was gone by delivering a shock to his neck when he barked. The collar worked great, but Dusty LOVES to bark and he would rather be burned than stop barking. Ultimately I took out the battery and left the collar on Dusty’s neck for show. I put up a higher fence in front of my yard as well, not to keep Dusty in, but to make my life more peaceful.
Here in Monte Vista people are a lot more tolerant of dogs and things dogs do. I even apologized to a guy for Dusty’s bark and he just said, “He’s a dog. Dogs bark.” The delivery guys think it’s good because I’m here by myself. “It’s better for you, ma’am,” they say. But, on a walk, if Dusty becomes aware of the presence of anything that might threaten me, he will bark fiercely. To some dogs, it’s a provocation.
El Barquero’s nemesis — Ace the Chill — is a black lab who lives on the corner by the alley. Ace has been known to occasionally go to the fence and bark at El Barquero Grande and El Barquero remembers this. When we walk by, Dusty gets nervous and alert, smelling the presence of Ace the Chill. Ace usually just watches us go by with nary a flick of his tail. He likes Bear and sometimes lumbers over to the fence to say “Hi!” if he sees Bear and I are alone. He has no interest in meeting or engaging with El Barquero.
Dogs all have different, sometimes complex, “dogonalities.” Even a fierce barky dog like El Barquero Grande is more than one thing. But I totally get it that he can sound scary to the casual observer.