The Sounds We Do and Don't Hear
Breedlines article from Dogs in Canada August Issue:
Carol, Fred and their Lab X (our neighbours) walk past the drive, the gate and eventually out of sight. The Shiba "family" hasn't stirred, except perhaps to yawn. Living near the end of a dead end street on an island certainly doesn't expose us to much traffic.
Minutes later the urgent "You'd better get out here and take a look" barking started. Our Shibas warning was clear to me; someone or something that didn't belong here was on "Our" road.
My thoughts go back to our apartment in Cologne Germany where our Shibas performed the same trick, but blindfolded, separating the regular tenants from strangers to the building by the sound of their footsteps in the hall and two stories below through a closed solid oak door! Dogs are so amazing. I wonder what life would be like if I had the scent, sight and hearing capabilities of our canine companions.
Historically, Shibas were in part, bred as "early warning" systems. Non-aggressive though they are, they still scan their surroundings using all three senses, processing the gathered information in their wickedly quick little brains and then announce the results if action is required. The warning given varies from a low grunting cough (reminds me of a stressed bear) that is made when the information is confusing or incomplete, to a more usual bark (never yappy) that says "I don't recognize this as being part of the normal picture" to a more urgent and agitated bark that says both "come and help me" to us, and "hey you, get away from here" to others.
The low grunt is the one I like best because of the visuals that accompany it; they stand erect, ears pricked forward straining to hear, nostrils flared, chest sucking in air to test the scent, tail lying curled on the back, eyes sharp and focused with 100 per cent concentration.
But now I hear another tone in their voices. The boys are barking and squealing somewhat like a piglet, one of the girls is singing her eight-note song with a growling voice like Louis Armstrong had and at the same time they are doing Shiba jumping Jacks, leaping over a meter straight up in the air from a flat footed stance.
I'd better go and make coffee because it can only mean one thing: in about 10 seconds Grandma and Grandpa's car will be coming into sight.
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