Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Day Ted Found His Bark

For years, I thought my dog Ted was a mute. Other than the occasional whine of eagerness, I never heard him issue a single bark. I had learned to accept it until the day he proved me wrong.

It was our ritual to go for a walk in the evenings. We would walk a couple miles down the gravel roads in our area and then back for a total of four miles. It was a way to unwind in the evening and converse as a family. Of course, Ted was always invited on these walks and raring' to go. On one particular evening, Ted had been inside the house on his rug instead of outside and saw us getting ready for the walk. So he got up and stood by the door waiting to leave with us. When I was ready, I walked over to the door and asked:

Me: Do you want to go for a walk?

Ted: Whine.

Me: Are you sure?

Ted: Louder whine.

Me: Are you really, really sure?

Ted: A much more urgent whine with tail beginning to really knock on the closet door.

Me: I can't hear you!

Ted: Extremely urgent whine with a look in his eyes as if he was about ready to pee on the floor. His tail was about ready to knock the closet door off the hinges.

Me: Tell me that you want to go for a walk!

Ted: Bark!

At this point, we were both shocked. After three quarters of his life had already passed him by, he finally had barked. Ted had this bewildered look on his face as if to say, "what the f@$k just came out of my mouth?" I probably shared the same look. We paused for a second and I repeated the question and he barked again. I repeated and soon his barks were a continuous stream, so loud that I had to open the door lest I lose my hearing permanently.

From that day on, he barked more frequently and without as much goading as the day he learned to bark. He never did bark out of alarm, like when someone pulled in our drive and the other dogs barked, or barked out of anger. For Ted, he barked only out of joy. I think this is why people were always surprised when they got out of their car and for the first time met Ted. He wouldn't growl or bark like other dogs and instead just trot up to them, punch his nose into their crotch and sniff. More than one salesmen thought this was a warning shot across their bow and got right back into their cars. Some dogs bark their warning; my dog sniffed and got the point across. I guess he saved his bark for special occasions.

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