Nick and Freddie have a brush with the law
Aspen, CO Colorado
One good thing about our long, cold winter was that my dachshund puppies, Nick and Freddie, were abnormally quiet. With nothing to bark at except unsatisfying walls of snow on each side and the sky above, they said to hell with their patrol duties and tucked themselves under the covers for the duration.
When the sun finally came out, no one could have been more jubilant at the return of green grass and access from their back dog door to the front yard than my sweet love muffins, who tore around expressing their happiness at full decibel, making up for all that lost time.
Well, I romanticize the little devils. It is true that they were ecstatic at the return of spring, but they didn’t just bark for joy, they barked because dachshunds bark at just about everything, including birds in the sky, small children who stop on the sidewalk to say hello, the slam of a car door or footsteps on the stairs of the condo next door.
If they hear the tinkle of the bear bells on the back gate, or the creak of the front gate, they go ballistic.
Ballistic is hardly the word for the cacophony of barks, howls and other-worldly SCREAMS with which they greeted Gretchen, a lady of police persuasion, who was standing (back from the closed screen door) in the yard, badge gleaming, one early afternoon a couple of weeks ago.
If there was ever a time for the expression, “I rest my case,” that was it, but Gretchen forewent the opportunity to point out the (bleeding) obvious and instead was extremely polite and sweet, saying that the barking of the doodle-bugs (“Chihuahuas from hell,” read the report on past dachshunds, Rufus and Trudy) had been brought to her attention. I apologized, she departed.
The delinquents trembled on the couch, knowing they were in deep doo doo. “OK guys, this is IT,” I said. “If I can learn to use an MP3 player, you can learn to stop barking.” I didn’t hold out much hope. As E.B. White wrote, “I never knew a breed of dog that understood so much of what I said or held it in less disdain.”
I gave them their Miranda warning, speaking of shock collars, foster homes and the slashing of vocal chords. It was spring and a good time to change their ways after a winter of blessed silence.
I closed off the back dog door, rolled up a few sheets of newspaper and set the weapon on the desk by the front door. After a couple of hours to let the implications set in, I invited them to go out the front, with the stern warning, “NO BARKING!” They knew what I meant, but flew out barking in full throat. I whapped the newspaper onto my palm: NO BARKING! They looked up, barked again, WHAP WHAP, “Get in here!”
They slunk inside, as if I’d been beating them with newspapers their whole lives.
I could drag out the details but, in short, they stopped barking after less than two days of this routine. No one could have been more surprised than I was.
Of course there were lapses, one being a series of sharp yaps that brought me running to the door grabbing for the newspaper, to find a neighboring cat lying just on the other side of the fence, rolling in the sunny dust.
“It’s just the kitty,” I assured them quietly (I did not Whap), “just the kitty, it’s OK,” and to my astonishment they looked up as if to say, “Oh, just a kitty,” settled down on the lawn and sat enjoying the sun with the cat for over an hour, without a peep.
As they say, there are no bad children, only bad parents.
Su Lum is a longtime local who is embarrassed that it took 71 years to learn how to be an Alpha dog. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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