Monday, March 16, 2009

In Dog We Trust

We live in a very doggy neighborhood.

This morning our neighbor’s beagle was trying to warn the whole block of some imagined, impending danger and began barking and howling around 5am and continued this feat for three hours. God knows what was rattling around inside the little guy’s skull that made him decide the best course of action would be wailing like some Scottish ghost walking the upper floor halls of a moss covered castle overlooking Loch Ness.

I come from a canine friendly family – my parents have bred and raised English Mastiffs for years and usually have a half dozen or so of the 200 plus pound dogs lumbering around in a pack around their place. One of my sisters raises boxers – a breed that always looks to be incredulous and another sister has a farm where her mismatched pack of dogs roams unencumbered. We have a beagle mix of our own named Hector Wingnut Rodriguez who was brought home from a Home Depot parking lot and our foo foo dog – Suzette Crème Fromage a Papillion with a mild case of OCD.

Even with all this experience I rarely can guess what is going on in a dog’s mind. Why does Suzi suddenly jump from a deep sleep and race to another part of the house? Why did Mikey – a one eyed Boston terrier we once owned lick walls? Did Hector expect us to pay him for the trenches he dug across our back yard? What is the next door neighbor’s beagle’s problem? Who knows?

One of my favorite inscrutable dog actions is my parent’s pack of mastiffs harmonized howling whenever they hear a siren go by the house which - since a fire station is only a block away - happens with some frequency. We don’t know which of their dozens of dogs started the tradition but even as one is replaced with the next the habit is passed down so that the entire mob joins in the a cappella choir.

My father is near the top of the food chain when it comes to backyard mechanics. He has a garage that is better equipped than most Sears car repair centers. So his is the place where brake jobs, oil changes, and even bodywork and paint jobs are performed. On several occasions I have helped with different projects including the resizing of eight foot tall four foot wide metal storage bins where I learned to become quite proficient with an acetylene torch.

During one of these activities – instigated by me – bodywork and painting of a friend’s RX7 my dad was seriously injured. While crouching down to primer the back bumper of the little sports car he tipped over accompanied by a snapping sound. Both of his knees are replacements and we assumed that one had given out. Lying on his back wincing as if he were listening to a preliminary round of American Idol the old man is shouting at me to “Snap it back – snap it back!”

And I’m going like, “What the hell you talking about snap it back!?”

“Damn it, just pop my knee back in!”

Now might be a good time to let you know my dad is a lunatic – he’s been kicked in the teeth by a horse he tried to stop by grabbing its tail as well as being ejected like a champagne cork from the back porch while working on a live 220 line. Thus I took his suggestion of popping his knee back into place like it was part of a Lego set with a grain of salt. Even so I picked up his foot to see what could be done. His leg flopped around like a broken bicycle chain wrapped in a tube sock.

“Ain’t no popping into place happening here – I’m calling 911,” I said.

That’s when the magic happened.

As the ambulance arrived – sirens hailing their approach my parent’s mastiffs were in ecstasy. It had come! Their howling finally paid off – the magic squealing flashy light thing that they had been summoning through generations of champion producing bloodlines had paid off. Their ancestors were avenged and now smiled proudly down from canine Valhalla upon their progeny as they rolled in the grass flashing the whites of their eyes and kicking their legs as if they were experiencing small electric shocks – which they may have been. Like an obscure aboriginal legend passed down during clandestine rites of passage ceremonies these dogs had no idea why they howled and to suddenly be face to face with their deity – well let me just say it was overwhelming.

Dad had fractured his femur but he healed well and is up and about again and now his dogs have a new story to pass onto their pups, of the time when the siren – every bit as magical as Ulysses’ - actually paid a visit.

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