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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Too Much Ado About Dogs…

Valley cornThe Valley is full of wind today, so instead of listening to Gladys complain the entire route as she hauls me around the Loop, I decide to leave her behind and head out on foot.

The walk was brisk, definitely fallish, cornfields tasseled out, bowing to the breeze. Clouds packed the sky, bullying the blue with gray and white, insinuating their imminent dominance over the Valley. It felt good to be afoot again. A change of pace—from slow to slower. Seems a good fit for today.

Last December I wrote a post about the excess of dogs at the John Deck dairy (“Hounded in the Valley…” 12/15) and a second post thanking John for taking care of the problem (“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” 2/9/2011). Just recently I noticed two glaring “Beware of Dog” signs posted on the chain link fence by the new inhabitants of the house on the east corner above Swiss Hall. For two or three weeks the signs have all appeared to be bluster. As of my return walk today, that has all changed.

We each have our phobias. My sister has an irrational fear of bees. My son-in-law fears flying. With my wife, as you know, it’s spiders. Most people have a fear of snakes. Women fear mice and rats. Usually these fears are imprinted on us in childhood, seared into our emotional consciousness; they scarify us for life.

Now I’m a fairly large fellow. (Gladys would testify to that, even protest I’m a bit too large for her liking.) But I am a “magnacaninophobe”; I have an irrational fear of large dogs. When I was a child growing up in a peaceful little neighborhood in Wenatchee, Mom took me for an outing one day, a leisurely walk down Washington Street. Suddenly out of nowhere, either from the porch of the house we were passing or around the side of it bounded a huge German Shepherd. Suddenly I was face-to-face, eye-to-eye, toes-to-paws with big ears, big nose…and a mouthful of teeth that would have put the Big Bad Wolf to shame. (Whoaaaaa! Rinty!) And as if this weren’t trauma enough, it was all punctuated by a deep, rumbling bark that to my tender ears seemed to say: “You are about to die!” It was my first encounter with primeval animal anger, and I remember the incident vividly. To this day I can’t see a German Shepherd without a rush of post traumatic stress.

And that’s why today, whenever I hear the rumbling bark of a big dog, every sense is on alert, every nerve fueled by an adrenalin rush. I felt it again today as I passed by that house with the new “Beware of Dog” signs. I discover, too, the signs are misleading. Both should read: “Beware of DogS” The canine voices from the yard were the full-throated barkings of Big Dogs. Sure enough, both rushed to the fence as I passed by: two large, Great Danish dogs with big, pointy ears. “Why, why?” I thought. “Why not the little yelping bedroom slipper dogs that used to greet me as I passed by? Why not the hoarse croaking of the little beagle hound that took their place? Why not a little, short- legged Welsh Corgi like Ziggy who lives in the house on the corner of Sargent Road? Why two huge dogs, each of which could leap the Great Wall of China, let alone the insignificant four foot fence that “contains” them?” And what kind of person owns animals that warrant “Beware of Dog” signs? All this I wonder as I tremble my way home, the Danes’ throaty bellows echoing behind me as far as Ed’s place.

I go to the Valley to seek peace; it’s an opportunity to reflect, a time to muse and rummage through the dormant thoughts that surface, a time to process those thoughts. Big dogs that bark and bellow shatter the moment, are flashbacks to the big dog issues of my youth. It’s difficult to find peace in the Valley when you have to tote a canister of pepper spray with you whenever you visit.

“Beware of Dog.”  I wonder, “What kind of neighbor posts a sign like that?”

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  1. I used to jog in several neighborhoods with big, running-loose dogs that would threaten me and my own leashed dog as we passed. I found that carrying a long-handled cattle prod had a magical affect. I almost couldn't wait to use it on one of those obnoxious suckers. But curiously, they seemed to sense my confidence, daring them to come within range. I never got a chance to use it, they all avoided me like the plague after that. Huh.

  2. Thanks for the tip, CF. Actually a cattle prod is a good idea--not for dogs but to spur Gladys along a bit faster. Then we could outrun the opposition. On a more serious note, I'm more perplexed by the type of person who would move into a neighborhood and immediately slap a couple of "Beware of Dog" signs in your face. Seems a form of rural terrorism to me. So far the fence has contained the Baskerville hounds, but no fence is a barrier for that obnoxious barking. Thanks for reading....

  3. Boo!! I will tell you the kind of neighbor that posts a "Beware of Dog" sign, is the kind of neighbor that has 3 unaltered Pit bulls. I share your fear of big dogs, but only if they're brindled (talk about irrational), or if they're Pit bulls. Hopefully, they'll warm up to you & Gladys in no time.

  4. Oh, what big ears they have! And what big jowls! And come to think of it, I believe one is brindled. As far as warming up to us, their barking sounds pretty heated to me!