There is a persistent myth regarding home security. You’re better off with a barking dog than not. So you suffer the expense of over-priced kibble, dog walks in nasty weather and poop-scooping several times a day. That’s the price you pay for your pooch and it’s worth it. Any criminal approaching your castle is bound to panic and flee when they hear that bark. That’s because dogs mean business.
Like most dog owners I used to believed that. Not anymore.
I have two dogs, Riley, a mid-sized black mutt and Cookie, a large Golden Retriever. They are quite the dynamic duo when it comes to alerting the family to suspicious nearby behavior.
I can’t count the number of times I was sitting at my desk in the basement when the black dog decided to run upstairs to the front of the house, poke his head past the curtains and bark furiously. That’s the cue for the pretty, but not terribly bright, Golden Retriever to pop out from under my desk and begin barking. Her bark is deep, loud and annoying as hell since she’s only three feet away from me. That’s as far as she goes. There’s no going up to the first floor for further investigation into this potential security breach. That would involve stairs.
“If you think it’s that important, go see what’s going on,” I tell the Golden sternly.
She stops barking and looks back at me.
Upstairs, Riley continues to go ape-shit.
Cookie doesn’t move but woofs under her breath a few times.
Riley is now beside himself with excitement, terror…it’s really hard to say. His volume reaches a fever pitch and sets off the upstairs sensor that triggers the wireless doorbell extender in the basement.
“There’s someone at the door!” Riley howls.
“There’s someone at the door!” Cookie whines in agreement and dashes up the stairs.
“There’s no one at the door,” I tell myself.
The downstairs door chime rings again.
Now, I begin to have doubts. After all, there could be someone at the door. It could be a package from Amazon. A gaggle of neighborhood kids selling cookies and candy to benefit a school sports team is more likely. Of course, I shouldn’t buy any sweets. I’m fat enough as it is…but you gotta support the kids, right?
I get up from my comfy, leather chair. God, I hope it’s not a pair of well-dressed Mormon boys on bicycles. I trudge up the stairs.
Both dogs are plastered next to the front door, squirming and barking. “Open the door. Open the door!” Finding out who is on the porch is their top priority.
“Get back,” I tell them. They don’t listen. As I open the door, I block them with my body. They push past me, nearly taking me out at the knees. I catch my balance and greet…
No one. No cars. No kids. No one at all.
The dogs seem as surprised as I am pissed. I call them back into the house, shut the door and return to my downstairs office. Twenty three minutes later, history repeats itself.
There have been days that this exact scenario has played itself out four or five times. I end up screaming, “Shut up you idiots. There’s no one here!” They keep barking but I hold my ground. I wasn’t going to take the stairs on another fool’s errand.
Later, I find out that five was the charm. A delivery guy was ringing the bell. So, instead of getting the package that required a signature, I end up with a post-it note from UPS. See you tomorrow.
As utterly irritating as this daily routine was, I was still glad to have the dogs for security. Sure, there were false alarms but that was okay. I mean, these two knuckleheads know how to create noise…a lot of it. And that alone would keep thieves from absconding with our valuables…whatever the hell they are.
Then came Monday.
Both dogs were in the basement office with me. Riley was sacked out on the small wicker love seat. The Golden was sprawled across a throw rug next to me.
Knock, knock knock.
What was that? I looked over at the canine security guards. They didn’t stir. Was I hearing things?
Knock, knock knock.
“Did you hear that?” I asked aloud.
Cookie opened her eyes, raised her head and looked at me. “Did you say treat?”
I froze, listening intently. The big girl put her head back down. If you don’t have any food, I’m not interested.
“Are you guys suddenly deaf?” I yelled at the dogs. Riley stirred, jumped down off the settee, stretched, left the room and wandered upstairs. Not a word out of him. Cookie went back to dreamland.
I decided to investigate myself. The source of the noise was immediately evident. The glass french door to the back yard is about fifteen feet from the home office.
I watched a resolute bird slam himself into the glass…one…two…three times.
Then, exhausted and unconscious, he fell to the ground. A minute or so later, he came around and flew off to a nearby tree. I thought he had given up. Good for him.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” —W. C. Fields
This bird was a damn fool. About a minute later, he came back and flew straight into the glass.
“…suddenly there came a tapping, as of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”
No dog barking is mentioned in Mr. Poe’s poem. He must have had lazy, useless beasts as well.
The bird fell back onto the concrete patio for at least the fifth time. Ouch.
A scene played out in my head. It is the middle of the night and a burglar slips into our yard and makes his way to the back door of the house. He knocks on the glass door. He does this several times. Eventually, the dogs make their way downstairs and over to the door.
“Hello, doggies,” the burglar says.
The dogs aren’t completely awake yet. They blink, yawn and stretch. They remain silently vigilant.
“Can I come in, please?” the man in black asks ever so nicely.
The dogs look at each other. Well, he did say please, didn’t he? He must be okay.
The man picks the lock and enters.
The dogs wag their tails, demand a petting and soon retreat to the upper floor of the house and back to bed.
I sigh with the uncomfortable knowledge that this could happen any night. Maybe even tonight.
The bird started to come around again.
I rapped loudly on the door to scare the bird away. He flew back to the tree. Inside the house, my trusty canines failed to notice anything out of the ordinary.
Suddenly, the bird returned, determined to gain access to the world’s largest birdhouse.
Perhaps this bird listened to too many motivational speakers. I know I have…often with similar results. The glass remains intact and you wake up on the floor wondering what happened.
Family dogs are not like tenacious birds. They don’t worry about glass doors. They just stand and wait for them to be opened. If the door doesn’t get opened, something unpleasant will occur. You can bet your life on that. And they won’t be the ones cleaning that up.
Yes, dogs like Riley and Cookie have it made. They get food, housing and love without the burden of having an actual job. They are the trust-fund babies of the animal kingdom. As such, it’s best not to give them any real responsibilities.
That was Monday’s lesson.
Note to self: Turn the alarm on before going to bed.
“I hear you knocking…but you can’t come in.” —Dave Edmund