Sunday, July 10, 2016

the dog that did bark

Few things in life are more valuable than the recommendation of a good book from a friend.

Not long after Barco nuzzled his way into my household, my blogger pal Jennifer Rose told me to get a copy of Alexandra Horowitz's Inside a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know -- and to then read it. She promised great insight into the ways of dogs.

I bought the book earlier this year, but it has been sitting in my Kindle waiting for me to weary of my read-about-all-the-dead-presidents project. (I will explain that modified title in a later essay.) A friend in the United States has mailed me a hard copy of a Harding biography -- the next entry on my list. While waiting for it to arrive, I decided it was time to learn a bit more about my rather fickle dog pal.

Barco usually joins me in the pool when I start one of my reading jags. Not because he is infatuated with my presence, but because I usually eat my dinner while I read. He is a food-centered dog.

On Saturday, I shared the two different worlds Barco and I occupy (a tale of two cynics). Mine is sight and sound. His is nasal.

Not surprisingly, that is where Horowitz begins her tale of dog life. She had just told me about the mechanism dogs use to clear their nasal passages of old smells to make way for new -- with a slight sneeze -- when Barco did something I had never heard him do before. He was taking in short bursts of air. Almost as if he had suddenly turned asthmatic.

I was a bit concerned -- until I noticed he was very intent in his sniffing. He was not only sniffing; he was analyzing.

He got out of the pool and started toward the garage door grumbling, as he often does, like an old man muttering about socialism. He then stopped and ran up to the second level where he started barking. When he ran downstairs, I knew he wanted me to come witness some new danger to our sovereign existence.

I almost expected to see hordes of Canadians crawling over the wall. But I could see nothing. Nor could I smell whatever it was that initially set him off.

But he insisted, by barking at the top of the wall, that danger lurked. And then I saw it.

We humans love bathing in hubris that our eyesight trumps the puny efforts of dogs. But tied with his nose, Barco's eyes put mine to shame.

Sure enough, there were intruders. They are right there in the photograph that leads this piece. But, like me, you might need a closer look.

Yup. Two fellows were climbing the tower next to my house -- I presume to do some maintenance work.

In Barco's world, of course, there are no presumptions. People fall into two categories. Friends (people within our walls) and dangerous intruders (anyone on the other side of the wall). And those guys were definitely not inside our walls.

Popular culture runs in cycles. When I was young, westerns were the way to fill the Hollywood bank. No one is much interested in seeing one these days. Sherlock Holmes is far more fortunate -- having waxed and waned in popularity since Conan Doyle released him out of his imagination.

Barco could just as easily have told me, when I finally saw what had caused him to cry "Hey, Rube!" this afternoon: "You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear."

Before long, he will be requesting a deerstalker and a briar pipe. It must be the bloodhound in him.

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