Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Dog Chorus 3/14/09

The Dog Chorus 
Weather: Snowing heavily
Temp 32.2 F
Wind 2-3 MPH
Our neighborhood has a lot of feral dogs. For those of you from Rio Linda, that means they are wild and have no human master or home. We counted over twenty of them last fall and then found two new litters, one of two and another of three.

I don't mind the dogs during the day and they are just part of the general scenery for me. They go about their business of foraging in the garbage and running from place to place in small groups or sometimes in packs of 10 or 15. Occasionally in the morning I see them gathering on the next block, seemingly greeting other dogs as they are let out by their masters for short times before presumably being shut-up for the day. It actually seems to me that the feral dogs have a better life than the kept ones as they seem to be free to do dog stuff and are not confined.

Then one day last week I saw a group of the dogs gathering and greeting across the street as a man with a medium size schnauzer came along. The feral dogs barked a greeting to the leashed dog and I saw that dog straighten up, stretch its head and tail up, strike a dominant pose and walk away near the knee of the human. That was a clear message that "I belong to someone and I'm better then you street dogs." If I had not seen that I would not have believed it.

I get irritated at the dogs when they roam around the area just barking. First one or two will start and then the whole group will take up the chorus for anywhere from a couple of minutes to almost an hour. That gets old fast. I sometimes mutter aloud about them and Cindy takes the dogs' side, telling me that they are just doing their job and I should be able to ignore them. Generally I do, but at night when I am awakened by this constant barking through our opened window (remember the air flow) I get very annoyed. It is like trying to ignore a jet aircraft landing on the street below.

Last night I gave in to muttering again about the dogs as we were settling into bed, post fluff, and Cindy again told me to ignore them. Sometime during the night I became aware of a different kind of bark. Maybe it was the snow fall. Maybe it was the temperature. Maybe it was the exact place they had gathered. Maybe it was just me trying to make the noise bearable. I don't know, but it was different.

At first I was aware of several dogs at some distance that began to bark. One with a very high pitched bark and the others lower as if the older ones were teaching the young ones a song. Then some dogs nearer picked up the bark and moved away toward the group and joined them. Then others to the right of our building also began to bark and moved toward the distant group. I lay there thinking, there is a gathering of these dogs and they are all coming together at some point just a ways off. Then more came, and more.

After what seemed a very long time, the barking took on a hollow kind of sound. Like they were performing in a theater, and the numbers had grown far beyond anything I have heard before, and the voicing had various pitches and timbres like sopranos, tenors and basses. Several were very high and seemed a little shrill, but most blended. I'm not talking about the Hurley Ward choir of 30, I'm talking about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It sounded like hundreds of dogs barking in some kind of rhythm with almost a melody. It was so fascinating I was working up the strength to get my camera out and make a video of it to record the sound when it began to die off and finally stopped.

The Book of Mormon contains a story about a group of people (the people of King Lamoni) who are converted to Christianity, but are forced to live under the burden of subjugation to their former Lamonite friends because of their beliefs. When they pray for deliverance, the Lord does not immediately remove their burdens, but makes them seem light to them. In a small way, this is what has happened to me with these dogs. Now, instead of dreading to be awakened by their barking again tonight, I am looking forward to it. My little burden has been made light and even sweet to me.

If it happens again tonight, I will be prepared. I'll leave my camera on the window ledge and get it "on tape". Maybe I was dreaming. Maybe I'm just trying to make a silk purse out of a very irritating sow's ear. Nonetheless, it was a startling experience that I hope to capture on something with a better playback than my poor memory.

What a country.

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