Bailey is one of the happiest-go-luckiest dogs around. She delights in everything, and though she barks at other dogs, it is usually in a spirit of play. But one day as we were both trotting along wagging as usual, she suddenly froze, turned every hair into a hackle and raised it, and began snarling and barking like I truly never imaged she could. This was one very frightened and upset dog. And there was nothing there. I looked and looked in the trees or along the roof lines for anything unusual, but there was nothing, not even a squirrel. Then whatever it was went away, and she looked at me and resumed her wagging, apparently quite pleased with herself for scaring off whatever it was she saw. Who knows, maybe she saved my life from legions of phantom trolls. I don’t think so, but I didn’t want to risk being ungrateful, so I told her she was a good girl.
Bisou, Sally and Dudley have all behaved like this. My reaction in each case is at first professional, as I look for some other dog or danger to avoid. But then it’s instinctual. Before they were anything else, dogs were, for humans, an extension of our senses. They smell what we can’t and tell us about it. They listen while we sleep. They sense the world and bark about it, and we ignore them at our peril. And since we’re tuned into dogs like they’re tuned in to us, and they are also tuned to the invisible or impossible world (or not) then they are our furry points of access to that world. Being extra-tuned to dogs is my avocation as well as my occupation. So when a dog is as spooked as Bailey was, I get a little spooked too. My hackles go up. I tell her “hush girl, its okay”, but it comes out like a nervous question. In the end the phantom trouble departs, and we go on our way, neither species able to comfort the other, but both still determined to try and face the world together. And ghosts or no ghosts, this is itself a truly amazing and almost mystical connection. At least usually. Some dogs are harder to connect with, but this is simply because they aren’t really dogs, but aliens from a distant galaxy sent to infiltrate us. Or perhaps they’re aliens enjoying one of the galaxies best retired lives. You can’t tell me they’re not.