July 14, 2022. Dude finally stopped barking. Or maybe he’s just too far away for us to hear. I’m hoping his all-night howls earned him a spot in the canine choir. He was a baritone but had a tremendous range with two octave slides as smooth as George Jones.
His bass voice was for growling, a menacing sound which belied his gentle nature. Occasionally he growled for no reason, offering a guttural snarl that meant as little as a campaign promise.
When Dude moved here from California, it took a few weeks for us to understand each other. He never showed much expression, so it was hard to know what he was thinking. With a deep throaty growl, massive jaws, and a poker face I was a bit wary. Eventually, however, I saw a hint of a smile.
Baritone was for sustained barking. He loved alerting us to delivery trucks, loud mufflers, and boom boxes, but trains and thunderstorms were his specialties. He told us when they were coming then monitored them until they crossed the county line.
Dude’s tenor was solid but reserved for harmonizing with sirens. His distinctive whines told us whether an ambulance or deputy was heading our way. He also would indicate the direction, which sounds impressive but the only options were north or south.
Jane achieved some limited success in training him to bark responsibly over the past six months or so. We had bought a collar but neither of us liked the idea of shocking him. Plus we didn’t want to zap him with something we hadn’t tested and Jane refused to put it on. I had another idea but found out she’s a light sleeper.
That’s why we ordered a training whistle, one that dogs can hear but humans can’t. Barney Fife once used that technique on The Andy Griffith Show, so I had confidence in the plan. I gave it a test run and couldn’t hear a thing so knew it was working.
The whistle was used sparingly as we kept cutting Dude additional slack. We made a deal that he could bark all he wanted until ten p.m. There were times he ignored the curfew, taking advantage of tender enforcement. As his days grew shorter our patience grew longer.
On December 8, 2020, our vet had found a large mass in Dude’s abdomen plus internal bleeding. She said he might not live two weeks, that we might get up one morning and it would be over. But the bleeding stopped and the mass grew at a slow pace.
Lately he’d changed his napping habits and was acting a bit peculiar. Rather than stretching out on the cool concrete floor or in the hole he’d dug near the back porch, he began squeezing himself between two shrubs. Maybe the pressure felt good but that’s just a guess.
Seth and Jane had a talk about Dude’s outlook. He had been taking medicine for a long time and was about to need an exam for a refill. We all had the same question that had no clear answer. How do you know when it’s time?
No one wants a pet to suffer, but it’s hard to know where they are in that process. With Dude’s stoic nature, there was no way to tell if he was miserable or still enjoying life. He wasn’t interested in taking walks anymore, but his appetite never waned.
Some people measure their dog’s food and keep them at a precise weight where ribs can be counted. We take the other approach with an open buffet. When Dude got sick the menu was further enhanced. Besides unlimited dry food and a few table scraps, he enjoyed a big can of something sumptuous every night. A dog on a short leash shouldn’t worry about being a little pudgy or managing his cholesterol.
Thankfully, he died peacefully in his sleep as we had hoped. I wasn’t home when Jane found him lying motionless between the shrubs. Something about that spot must have helped him feel better. Or maybe it was his way of letting us know he would soon be moving on.
There were some frustrating nights when that aggravating rascal wouldn’t let us get a decent amount of sleep. I threatened him severely on multiple occasions, but he knew my threats were on par with his growls.
Now there’s an emptiness and an unsettling quiet left by another good dog who stole our hearts. It was a sad day when Dude finally stopped barking, but maybe it’s not over. I’m hoping he’s just too far away for us to hear.