Nightlife for dogs — heeding the call of the wild
Our dogs think that night time is the right time — for barking. They also bark like mad if anyone comes up our driveway, but that’s a different thing. Barking at night things has its own special excitement. There doesn’t have to be anything that a person can see or hear. The dog nose knows all, and inspires the dog to tell all.
The three of them, the cockapoo and the two German shepherds — an adult and an 8-month-old puppy — stand by the kitchen slider, or run from window to window, room to room, giving voice to various shades of menace, indignation and just plain desire to get outside and chase whatever it is.
Even after an animal has visited our yard and is long gone, Riley, the cockapoo, will run around the yard, sniffing vigorously every few feet, turning this way and that, like a bloodhound tracking an outlaw.
And Dominic (a.k.a. Nicky), the adult shepherd, will sometimes let out a series of barks loud enough to startle me awake in the middle of the night. Moonlit nights are especially good for this.
But, in general, when we let them out in the evening, the dogs don’t go too far afield and the prey (or predators?) stay away from them. Sometimes, though, they don’t have to go far to find trouble; it’s waiting just in the shadows at the edge of the yard.
Like the time several years ago when Dominic and Riley were taking a long time getting home one evening. We went out to call them and found them in the driveway, barking at something. We found out what when Nicky came inside, his muzzle bristling with porcupine quills.
He must have taken the lead in confronting the spiky creature, because Riley had only a few quills in him, and we were able to remove them pretty easily. Not so poor Nicky. He was very agitated from the pain, and would not hold still so we could tend to him. The vet kindly met us at his office after hours to remove the quills. He gave us a tip too: don’t try to pull the quill out of the dog, just grip it firmly with pliers and let the dog pull away from the quill.
I’m glad to say we haven’t had a repetition of that sticky — er, spiky — situation. But then, the other evening, the dogs were setting up a hue and cry about some nocturnal intruder in the yard. Maureen let Riley and Cushla, the puppy, out. Bark, bark, bark. Woof, woof, woof.
Alas, it wasn’t the usual turkeys or raccoons or foxes. When Cushla came back in, an all-too-familiar stench came with her. Yep, she and Riley had been giving what-for to a skunk. That musky, sweet, stick-in-your-throat smell stank up our kitchen so I could smell it a couple of hours later, even though the dogs hadn’t been in there.
And this time, Riley must have been the leader, because he smelled far worse than Cushla. We all – stinky dogs and humans – sat down for a while to relax, and then we took Riley upstairs for a bath. Which, in spite of the conventional wisdom that you can’t wash skunk smell off with soap and water, seemed to help quite a bit. The bathroom smelled a little after we were done, but, all in all, it was an improvement.
Cushla we confined to her crate downstairs to await her turn in the tub the next night. Which it turned out, after a day of running around outside, she didn’t need.
Riley, however, waited until I had replaced his odoriferous collar with a new one and then either rolled where the skunk had sprayed, or walked through some undergrowth that was full of the stinky scent, because a few days later he was aromatic again.
And that’s dogs for you – when the wild things call, they are drawn irresistibly to the scent, the chase, the night. No memory of past experience intrudes to slow them down, no caution about facing something larger or fiercer – or smellier – than themselves.
Life with dogs: it’s always an adventure. Still, I’m really glad it wasn’t a porcupine.