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Sudie Crouch: Boo found her bark
Photo David Taffet, Unsplash

For those of you that are adjusting to the new normal of Zoom meetings and all the embarrassment that can occur during them, you are just now getting a taste of what I have dealt with for years.

My dogs have always managed to make their presence known, usually at the most inopportune times.

The more important the meeting, the more they barked over the silliest of things.

A leaf fell, a squirrel climbed up a tree, a Chick-Fil-A commercial came on – that’s one of Ava’s biggest triggers –  That German Shepherd has a spite for those chicken-pushing cows.

Ava and Pumpkin bark incessantly.

Out of the three pups, Doodle – our precious Boo – was the one who would sit in stoic silence.

Routine events such as our weekly garbage pick-up sends the herd dogs into howling fits.

Boo stands on her back legs to watch out the window, eyeing the garbage removal cautiously without uttering a peep.

Once the truck pulls away, she lowers herself back down and resumes her quiet observations while Ava and Pumpkin continue to bark for 10 more minutes.

She’s the well-behaved one, while the other two seem to bark on cue.

And it never fails, the minute I have to speak in a Zoom call, that’s when they bark.

Right as I was asked for feedback during a meeting and unmuted, cacophony erupts because a truck went down the road.

I quickly apologize as I mute and turn off my video – something I have learned to do with lightning speed – so I can yell at the dogs to be quiet. Now they’re barking and I’m yelling.

“This is why cats are superior,” I mutter under my breath before I return to my call. Sexy Frank gives me a slow blink of agreement. He’s been sitting beside me, minding his kitty manners. My formerly feral, now domesticated mini-panther has never once crashed a meeting or even done as much as purr if I was unmuted.

During it all, Doodle hasn’t uttered a word.

“Boo’s the best pup really,” I said one night.

“She is a good baby,” Mama agreed. “But what has she done to earn this title?”

I told Mama how the caramel-colored pittie-mix doesn’t have a hissy fit like the other two do.

“She barked at me,” Mama reminded me. She loves reminding me of this, almost constantly.

 “I had a broken bone, Lamar had left with Cole and Bobby to get some chicken, and you had threatened for four years you were going to puppy-nap her. She felt threatened. And it wasn’t a bark, it was more like a long grunt.”

“Whatever you want to call it, she barked at me,” Mama repeated.

Boo didn’t bark. Like I had said, she was nervous. She has separation anxiety and was left alone in a room with a woman she wasn’t quite sure was a friend or foe.

Mama took it personally.

“She doesn’t bark at the phone repairmen when they come,” Mama began her litany of Boo’s non-barks.

“She didn’t bark at the cable people either.”

“No, but she did sit on my foot the whole time they were there and stared at them,” I said. “She looked at them real hard, too. Real dang hard.”

I don’t think they were scared; they just asked if she ever blinked.

“She doesn’t bark at the FedEx or UPS people. She doesn’t bark at your mail lady,” Mama continued.

That’s one that really drives me batty, our mail lady lives down the road from us. She’s been our mail lady for as long as I can remember, to the point she remembers the pups we had when we moved here. She even asks Ava why she barks at her. Ava doesn’t know. Ava just barks.

“Ava makes up for Boo’s non-barking, trust me,” I assure Mama. “Maybe the only thing Boo has had to bark about in seven years is you, Mama.”

Mama made her little hrrmpf noise at me, not finding my theory amusing in the least.

Then one day, it all changed.

I was working when Cole suddenly announced a man was in the yard.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“I don’t know. He just walked up in the front yard.”

I hopped up from my chair wondering who it was and simultaneously questioning what state of self-isolating disarray I was in. Did I have on real clothes or just my jammie jams?

By the time I had reached the kitchen window, I saw Lamar approaching the stranger.

Of course, I couldn’t hear what was going on from inside because Pumpkin’s high alert shrill was on full volume. Ava’s raucous baritone was reverberating the bedroom window. Lamar motioned for the man to step away from the porch so he could hear.

On the porch, watching this transpire was a pup literally scared of her own shadow. I was waiting for her to paw at the door to come in, knowing how Boo does not like any kind of excitement.

Suddenly, I heard another bark. A bark I have never heard before.

“Is that Doodle?” I asked Cole.

He listened for a moment. “I believe so.”

Her voice was shaky, and not very intimidating but it was a bark, nonetheless. Maybe she thought she needed to join the other two in solidarity.

Lamar nodded to the man, and they walked to the backside of the cabin.

“Is another dog out there?” I asked, hearing a deeper bark, a bark that belonged to a much bigger, more aggressive dog.

We looked out the window. It was Doodle, her fur puffed up around her neck, ears up and back, not liking the fact her human dad was out of her sight nor that some strange man was out there with him.

Her bark grew deeper and louder, only easing when Lamar headed in the house, with Doodle high stepping like she had just saved us all from grave peril.

“Did you hear that?” I asked Lamar.

He nodded. “It took her a while, but it sounded like Boo finally found her bark.”