Sadie, my Heinz-57 (at least), is an unending source of amusement and bafflement. She is unlike any dog I’ve ever known, and those who know her will vouch for the truth of this statement.
Sadie is afraid of everything: Spotty (the cat next door), portions of our back yard, the horses in the meadow down the road, some dust balls, raw shrimp, certain shrubs and Jonesborough’s Main Street going west past Eureka Inn.
She doesn’t bark except to express her displeasure when something isn’t going her way. The dining rooms chairs have casters, which means they can be maneuvered by a small dog. If they behave and are positioned as she would like them to be, i.e. facing in the proper direction so she can jump into them, she is happy. If they are where they belong, i.e. pulled up to the table, she is furious.
All kinds of barks and growls ensue as she tries to arrange them properly, the barks rising to whines reaching a hysterical pitch if the chairs are being particularly unruly. If Madeleine, the cat, is lying on the heat vent and Sadie wants to be there — and she wouldn’t want to be there unless Madeleine weren’t already settled — Sadie barks. Furiously.
She doesn’t bark at the postal carrier or strangers who come to the door. She doesn’t bark, as dear Gracie did, when the dryer buzzes. Nor does she bark at people walking by the house or dogs calling out in the distance.
Before our raccoon met its end in the street last fall, Sadie barked at it when it came to the back stoop to look for cat food. Her barking, so out of character, seemed as though she’d been possessed by a power greater than herself. Thousands of years of dog DNA kicked in, willing her to bark when she’d rather stay quiet. With me by her side and a solid door between her and the raccoon, I assumed she felt safe and brave at the same time.
Monday came as a shock. Sadie and I were in the back yard. She was lying in the sun in the only spot she will lie, next to the groundhog lawn ornament my mother-in-law gave me. Try to get Sadie past that spot and she sits on her haunches and digs her front paws into the ground like a mule being led to the plow.
So Sadie was in her spot, and I was sitting in the deck chair nearby reading, when crashing sounds came from the woods. It took me a moment to focus on the sound of intrusion. Sadie sat up and stared into the trees. Just then a doe bounded into sight then disappeared up the hill through the trees.
Sadie stood up and began to bark. I grabbed her leash and she kept barking, pulling me toward the woods, her front feet off the ground and her bark sounding like fury. “This must not stand!” she seemed to be saying. “I will not tolerate this.”
“But Sadie it’s a deer,” I told her. “It could kill you.” I had visions of being pummeled or worse by an angry deer, and I tightened up on the leash. At the same time, Sadie became fascinated with a patch of grass and forgot about the deer altogether.
Was this a transformative moment for Sadie? Had she confronted her demons?
No. The next time Spotty came into the yard, Sadie ran into the house.
Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.