My sidekick Barkley.
I will always be a "dog person". Especially big dogs. Big Jake, a golden retriever mix, who like his namesake was brave but unlike his namesake was possibly the dumbest dog I have ever known, but very well behaved and loving. There were other family dogs over the years, a German Shepard mix named Zeus, two other black labs - Bonnie and Clyde and my two huskies, a black and white Siberian named Shamu and a Samoyed named Sitka (which I came to believe was Inuit for "he who sheds").
Barkley though, I have to say, is my favorite. He came from a distinguished line of National Field Champions and has a pedigree that would make him a show dog. That's not why I selected him. Some of the best dogs I've had have been "mutts". But a fellow I work in the field with had Barkley's older sister, and she was such a great dog that I had dibs on a pup when they decided to have another litter with that same parental pairing.
Though I didn't train him for show, he is by far the smartest dog I've had. Every once in a while, even if it's just for me, I cook a tremendous lumberjack breakfast. He always begs, though politely. One deeply snowy morning, before I had the fence, I had just sat down with some Bacon and a big stack of homemade sourdough pancakes and Barkley frankly, ignored me. Not even as much as a LOOK in my direction. Now that was odd. Maybe he had a tummy ache. I'd never seen such inattention to anything coming to the table since the ill conceived "tofu night". In any event I sat down while he did a careful study out the window of his arch enemy Mr. Squirrel and ignored me and my plate.
Suddenly, he JUMPED up, scratching furiously at the door. He had to go, and in a bad way. But since the fence had not been built, I had to go with him with the leash as he would run off into the corn otherwise. My snow boots, of course being in the garage. He continued to scratch and whine desperately at the door like his little bladder was going to burst so I scurried out into the garage to find the boots. He, as well, knows they're out there. I returned to an empty plate and Barkley licking Maine maple syrup off his nose, then going promptly back to sleep, bladder quite fine, thank you. I was set up.
But he's good company; a heartbeat at my feet on those nights I'm alone in the big house and a cold, lonely wind taps at my soul. He's the uncomplicated creature I could be if I knew better. He challenges any threat with honor; to bark at a strange dog is the utmost of patriotism for him, and he quietly offers me an affection ignorant of my faults. He sleeps deeply yet watchfully and for his cunning seems to have no knowledge of death, and relies on me to do his worrying about that for him.
Yet, like most hunting breeds, with the instincts built into such bloodlines, he can also be self reliant and resourceful, a Knight with a tail. Such it was one night long ago. The land behind my house was a deep expanse of darkness, and not a sound was heard around me. I was curled up with only a small lamp for illumination, reading.
As I read, I hear Barkley huffing at the back window. The whole back of my house is windows overlooking the southern sky. I didn't hear anything, but he did. Then a few minutes later I hear it. Voices, way back behind my house, not making any huge attempt to conceal themselves, it sounded like normal, but purposely muted conversation. I'm concerned but not overly so. My house is locked, I have enough firepower to hopefully deter anyone, of any size, from harming me in a home invasion. I have an alarm system that will also summon the fire engines at a substation only 2 miles away if I hit the fire button. I have Sir Barkley.
He's softly growling at this point. I've tried to teach him not to bark at each and every little thing, especially late or very early, in order to be a considerate neighbor. If I let him out and he barks at something innocuous, a leaf falling, a chipmunk, a well known neighbor riding a bike past the house, he's corrected. He's well over a 100 pounds and though a lab, as friendly a breed as can be, his bark sounds like a full grown mastiff about to tear your throat out, and it's loud. Barking at a possible threat is one thing, but when does it for no good reason I say firmly "Barking. . NO" and he doesn't get a treat when he comes in when I call. He's catching on. This is a dog that likes his treats.
The lights still off in my house other than the reading lamp, I pull to the window to investigate. It appears the neighbors are having a gathering some distance away, the house is all lit up, and I recognize the voices out back, though muffled. Their teenager and friends have snuck off their property to have an illicit smoke (they're underage) while Mom and Dad are having a soiree. Sneaking past the limits of their parents floodlight,through the open land onto my property, into the darkness behind my back fence. They're now sitting against it talking amongst themselves of normal teenage things and likely leaving their cigarette butts out in my field. I hesitated opening the door to call out to them, they weren't hurting anything other than their lungs, but I didn't want them to get into the habit of roaming onto my property uninvited. And I was getting tired of finding cigarette butts on my land.
Barkley is opening growling, but quietly. I look at him, point out towards the fence and say "Barkley. . Barking GOOD". He cocks his head at me, that isn't a command he's heard before and I'm not sure he understands but I quietly open the door. He rushes out, not making a SOUND as I expected. Normally, if he barks, he's started in before the door's even opened, but instead, goes running in silent, full special ops stealth mood, glossy black, invisible in the blackness until he gets to the back fence a hundred yards back, at which point he launches into a deep throated, full fledged " BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK!!!! a foot behind their smoke shrouded heads.
The kids scattered like a covey of quail, squealing, cigarettes flying and I'm sure at least one of them wet their pants
Like I said - I love my dog.