UNITED STATES—Dogs can be our best friend because they can’t talk. Nevertheless, I entertain the notion that dogs really do think and feel like Snoopy in “Peanuts.” The thought bubbles are always riding up, unheard.
DeVille has been moping around a lot lately, but he got a visit from some old friends, a poodle named Woolly, and a little yorkie, a comically animated little think, that oinks and spins. Ziggy. Ziggy is what happens when humans breed dogs for maximum whimsical cuteness. When you cross a Chihuahua and a terrier, you get a Deville, who pokes his nose in every morsel of chicken and pepperoni life on the street.
There was a honeymoon with DeVille, before he spent several months with the yorkie and poodle. Before he socialized with these dogs, whom we were babysitting he did not bark. When he would be around these dogs he learned to bark and carried on spirited conversations with other dogs halfway across the neighborhood. Now there’ll be times when DeVille barks so shrilly, I am quite sure that all the earwax has dislodged from my ears. It is a nerve-racking bark that pushes me into trying to imagine that it is only my imagination.
I learned better once. DeVille barked and barked and I was trying to write (my form of barking) and it sabotaged any form of concentration. The piercing persistence of the bark lent understanding to the barbarous practice of some pet owners severing the vocal cords of their dogs. The morning after the hysterical bout of barking I became dimly aware of something missing. Three days later, I realized that my daughter’s mountain bike was missing.
Since that time when I realized there was a meaning to that bark, not merely to defy me, we since then learned to respect the bark, and at its onset open the door or glance out the window. Often enough it is a food deliverer, or a squirrel. We let him out. Off he barks.
If the quarantine has done anything, it has made the world safe for drinking, smoking, and barking. Now when he growls, in the small hours, we let him out. There is an element of heart-pounding fear as he races around the corner, the fear that he may be met by the chupacabras. Then again, there is concern for the sleep of our neighbors being disturbed in their sleep.
That’s where we humans get confused, by trying to feign respect for sleeping neighbors, and we scoldingly rebuke our dear mongrels.
There is something about people that alters the picture, and it pits tolerance against appearance. Yelling at the dogs is a channel for things, at the heart of it, aimed at people and half-hearted regard for them.
The best thing we can learn from our doggy friends is patience, forbearance, and know that they get sidetracked in their own parallel sensory universe, ruled by smell. That is their job. At the end of the day people bark, not dogs.
Grady Miller is the author of the organ-trafficking thriller, “Hostages of Veracruz.”