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  • It’s the cat bark. The low, annoyed snuffling bark that he uses to signify that there’s a cat in the big yard and he’d like to be let out to chase it. This bark signifies his own frustration and isn’t really meant to move me to action, though he’s satisfied when I open the back door and run the cat off. That’s enough to bring the world back into balance. When he was younger, he thought he might be given the opportunity to chase, but he has learned that his job is just to sound the alarm.

    Then there’s the person-on-the-other-side- of-the-fence bark that’s more angry and insistent and designed for my ears, to pull me out of the house to investigate. That bark doesn’t stop unless I go all the way to the back of the yard and stand at the fence too. After I scare all of the bad interlopers away, then everything is good again. I don’t know if I should say that I have gone and stood by the fence many times, not to guard the yard as he is doing but in solidarity with him so that he knows his efforts are appreciated.

    His I-hate-fireworks bark is very similar, shocked outrage that the world could go so wrong so quickly. That’s the bark that happens if I can’t get him inside fast enough, or if they burst directly over the house.

    There’s the anti-schoolbus bark, the one that happens every weekday morning around 6:30 and lasts until the bus pulls away in a flood of nostalgic exhaust and blinking lights. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s the bus or the teenagers he’s barking at, but he never gets used to their presence. It’s similar to the bark he uses now for the Caterpillars that amass just beyond the fence, and the workmen swigging water before they go back to scraping off nature to build a parking lot.

    There’s the I-hear-you-in-the-front-yard bark, the one that says, “Ah, I see. You are doing something in the front yard that does not involve taking me for a walk or taking me in the car, and why is that exactly?” It only rings out in two or three staccato barks, just enough to let me know I’ve forgotten to get the dog. He finds walks stressful and he hates riding in the car, but he doesn’t want to be left behind. He used to be allowed to stay out front with me, but the neighbor across the street has a big dog named Zeus that he never leashes, so it’s safer behind the fence.

    His puppy bark was fierce and bright and said, “I don’t like having to sit in the crate while you do that.” It said, let me out, you picked me so now you must play with me. It said, I don’t care that it’s 3 a.m., play with me. It said, is it dinner time yet?

    When I first saw him, he was sitting quietly in a crate at the ASPCA, looking at our faces. When I picked him up, he was a small warm limp presence, promising to be a lapdog, to be sweet, to be still. He said, “I’ll be quiet” but of course that was a lie. When I sit with him now, he crowds my lap and he struggles, trying to get impossibly close. He races and jumps and barks at the million irritants the world presents each day, and he may even learn from the other dog how to howl someday. He is never still.
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