Erin's Everyday Thoughts

Friday, May 11, 2007

An Unusual Occurrence

Phoebe the dog rarely barks. It happens so seldom, in fact, that when she does bark, it seems a momentous occasion. You know there must be a real reason. Usually the reason is 1) she really really really has to pee or 2) she has noticed an unusual occurrence, something that she feels is not quite right, and she wants you to know about it. A few weeks ago, I was sitting on my enclosed back porch after dark, laptop in lap, writing. Phoebe was keeping me company, lounging on the floor beside my feet. Suddenly, a car pulled into my neighbor’s driveway. Phoebe stood up abruptly and barked into the darkness toward my neighbor’s house. The car that had entered the driveway must have belonged to a guest, because I did not recognize it (and obviously Phoebe didn’t either!). I think the new car, combined with the darkness of the evening, and the fact that she is rarely on the porch after dark all added up to equal an Unusual Occurrence in Phoebe’s mind, and therefore warranted a bark. And I mean "a" bark quite literally--she's generally not one to be repetitive. A solid "woof" (or two, tops) will generally do the trick.

The sound that Phoebe does make often is a sort of high-pitched whine. She does this in the morning when she hears us stir and knows we’ll be down soon to take her on a walk. She does this when a visitor stands at the door waiting for it to be opened. She does this when we’re putting on shoes, getting ready to take her outside and taking, obviously, FAR TOO long. And she also makes variations of this sound during her regular dog activities—like yawning. Sometimes the whine turns into a frustrated “aroo” sound. (So difficult to describe these sounds in writing! I should try to get some video of her actually making them!)

More often than not, though, Phoebe is silent. On a walk, we can pass ten fenced dogs all making a ruckus barking at her, and she sniffs at them but goes silently by. I think this is what makes her bark so interesting. She goes from silence and high whining to a startlingly deep and full “woof”. She is a largish dog (around 50 pounds), so it makes sense that her bark would be what it is. But in between barking instances, I forget.

The one notable exception to Phoebe’s history of barking silence was a several week period just after Christmas when she decided that barking at 4:30 AM was just the thing to do to get us to come down earlier to play with her. It still was not an insistent yap-yap-yap barking. It was just the early morning hour punctuated with a “woof”. And then five or ten minutes later another “woof”. It was enough to wake me, but barely. Sometimes I’d feel that I’d imagined it. We were able to correct this behavior, thankfully.

My brother (who owns Phoebe) has been out of town for the better part of the week, so I’ve gotten to spend much quality time with the ol’ gal. We learn from each other daily.


  • Erin, I suspect you are not quite aware of the many ways this entry is insightful. I hope you bookmark this entry somehow and look back on it in a few years. Then you will know what I mean. It reminds me of the saying, "The cry of an occasion." This is in reference to the creative act and it was coined by a southern writer whose name escapes me now. Anway, glad you got to spend time with Phoebe. My little Sweet Pea is coming along famously. She has really grown this week! BTW, I did not forget about your birthday, although I don't have the exact date written down! Could you tell me again, please? My email is

    By Blogger Theresa Williams, at 1:16 AM  

  • Oh, I like this one too! From the very first sentence...and for what it's worth, I think you've done a great job of describing the sounds Phoebe makes.


    By Blogger emmapeelDallas, at 12:36 AM  

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