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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Barking Dogs and Debates

I have three dogs. They are wonderful companions. The provide absolute, unconditional love. Even though I feed them the same stuff, day in and day out, with an occasional variation of "safe" table food, or let them lick the bowl after I've finished my ice cream (just not chocolate), or take them out for a long walk or a short walk, they still love me. Adore me.

And I adore them. They are wonderful. It's wonderful. Each and every one of them.

Except, they bark.

Well, not all the time. Ms. CoCo Chanel, the Havanese Princess, barks if she hears a boat go by the house. She will follow the boat from the windows in the master bedroom - which she considers her own, private throne room - out to the sliding glass door which faces the deck. Then, she'll follow them back again, barking the whole time.

Ms. CoCo
If she's out on the deck, she will follow them the whole length of the deck, barking the entire time. Many of our neighbors call to her from their boat as they go by. They either say, "Hey there, Ms. CoCo," or a few of them salute and say, "The harbor mistress is on duty. I can sleep soundly tonight."

Mostly, the other two - Theo (Mr. Wonderful) and Lenny (Well, we just call him Lenny because the alternatives that would best describe his .....'slowness'.... are not very nice) - will watch her as she almost literally huffs and puffs as she races back and forth. They pick up their heads from their places on the couch or the dog beds as if to say, "You go girl. Call us if you need any back up."

She also makes this sound which seems to come from the back of her throat. If she were human, I'd say she was saying, "Ooooooo, don't you even THINK about it. Ooooooo."

She also wants her entire "pack" - the two boys and her two humans - in the same room. At the same time. If one of us gets up to go to the kitchen or bathroom or to leave the house, she emits a low, disapproving growl.

"Oooooo, don't you even THINK about it. Oooooo. You mean you're going to do it? You're actually going to leave the house? Oooooo, huff, puff. Bark. Bark, bark, bark. Bark, bark, bark, bark, BARK."

The three of them will bark if they even suspect that a car or a truck or a person is coming down the street and might possibly come within 100 feet of the house.

If someone actually comes to the door, they bark.

When the person comes into the house, they bark.

When I have come back into the house after being away for a couple of hours, they bark.

And, if they see the suitcase come out, Lenny, especially, begins to panic. He whines and snivels and whimpers. Poor baby.

Meanwhile, Ms. CoCo goes on high alert and Theo paces. All three begin to bark at the drop of a hat. Anxiety. Even dogs feel it.

It's not just that they bark. They B.A.R.K. Which is to say, loudly. Very. Loudly.

When all three of them are barking, it can get pretty noisy in here. And, pretty annoying. No amount of soothing words of reassurance from me will change it. One effective method is to get out a small spray bottle of water. One or two squirts of that and it stops.

Now, I have to say that, once everyone is IN the house and settled down, the noise stops and everyone settles down and vies for attention. "Pat me! No, me! No, there. Yes, that's it. Rub my belly. There's a good human." That will go on for a bit and then all is peace and quiet again.

Theo has made remarkable progress in a year and a half, but he is still getting used to strangers. Generally, he moves around the room, his head and body low, never taking his eyes off the person, and giving the visitor an occasional low "Woof" - as if to say, "Yo! Don't make any sudden moves. And, don't even THINK of coming near me."

Even so, after a while, he'll go and sniff their shoes. Or the cuffs of their pants. Or the hem of a skirt.  And then, he'll run away when the visitor tries to pat him. My big, brave little man! 

Not one of the three would ever snap or bite. That's not what it's about. It's all about pack behavior. Protective instincts. A lot of it is posturing warnings until they know it's safe. The pack is safe.

It's been a busy week, thus far, at our wee cottage on the back of the Bay of the Big Water.  We've had the Cable guy come and service our phone line, the local Handy Man stain the first of three decks/stairs, and the first round of neighborhood school kids selling magazines, popcorn and candies.

Oh, and, trash pick up this morning.

Don't all dogs hate it when the garbage trucks come onto their turf?

I guess I'm especially weary of the barking today. And, it's only Tuesday. If it doesn't rain tomorrow, the deck will be power washed and then stained the next day. I'm already planning not to be home all day Wednesday. One of my stops will be the local library. Maybe. I think I just like thinking about how quiet it will be there.

I've been thinking about this barking behavior as I prepare myself to watch the first of three Presidential debates.  Yes, I will watch them. All three. I'll be glued to the TV set.

No, my mind will not be changed by any of them. I read somewhere recently that, according to polling results from the last half century, debates rarely change anyone's mind.

Yes, I know. There were "moments" that people remember:
A sweaty, squinty-eyed, weary-looking Nixon vs. the calm, cool collected, energetic, youthful Kennedy (Kennedy's polls increased 4 points after the debate and he won the popular vote by 0.2%).

Reagan saying, "There you go again!" to President Jimmy Carter. (Before the debate, Carter led in the polls by 15 points. After the debates, his lead had dwindled to 5 points and he lost re-election.)

George H Bush looking at his watch in total boredom when he debated Clinton (Before the debate, he was 8 points ahead in the polls. After the debates, he was 9 points ahead in the polls and he still lost re-election.)
It's all posturing and noise.  A "Game of Thrones". A "political entertainment" of sorts for poly-sci and behavioral science geeks like me.

In that way, debates are as much as an exercise in futility as my dogs barking.  But, less noise. More posturing. Less raw. More sophisticated.

Except that, this election is close. Very close. Romney's political machine is looking to the debates as his last, best chance to overcome Obama's "surge" after both political conventions and shift the direction of the percentage points in the polls.

Romney needs to reach any voters who are still left in the "moveable middle" - being convincing enough that, when the last two unemployment statistics are announced before November 6th, and if they are bad - or at least, not good - those voters will remember something positive about Mitt from the debates and move from the middle over to the 'red' column.

It will also give Romney a chance to do some "mea culpas" for his "47%" remark and try his best to convince us that he cares - he really, really cares - about everyone. Not just the wealthy. Nope, even Richard who picks up the trash in his ocean-front California home.  He'll be his best former-Mormon-bishop self, when he's not being the slick salesman that he his.

Good luck with that, Mittster. I'm afraid that horse has been out of the barn on that one for a long time.  I expect Mr. Obama is well prepared for a comeback which won't knock him out of the ring, and won't hit below the belt, but it will be a well-placed blow to the midsection.

Obama just needs to stay cool and calm and, well, presidential. Gracious. Not aloof. Not weary or tedious or bored. And, on message: Forward!

Mitt will be the new dog in the pack, trying to become the New Alpha Dog.

I don't expect any barking or growling - maybe a few snapping and biting comments - but the debates will provide some interesting insights into human behavior under the scrutinizing eyes of the world.

This is no dog-fight. I mean, we are talking about the election of the man (Le sigh!) who will be the leader of one the most powerful and influential nations in the world for the next four years. 

The first debate is always considered the most crucial one, but they are all important because so many people tune in to see the two candidates go toe to toe.

Here is Romney’s last chance to present his vision and connect with the American people. Can he pull it off? Does he have a vision? Will he show us who he really is and what he really thinks about the issues?

Can President Obama keep his cool, while still projecting the image of a resolute leader? Can Romney rattle Obama? Can Obama corner Romney? Can Romney use a flash of humor to take down Obama?

As entertaining as all that is - well, for poly-sci and behavioral science geeks like me - it won't be anything compared to the commentaries on both sides, after the debate.

Bark, bark, bark, BARK. Woof. Growl. Oooooooo.......

I may have to get out my spray bottle. 

Is it November 7th yet? 

1 comment:

Marthe said...

Ah, a picture it would be:
You with your spray bottle and Ms. Coco patrolling and barking His Mittness into submission (she is clearly more alpha than he will ever be) ... when is the next one & where & can we take up a collection to send you?