Things Vito Barks At On A Regular Basis:
Objects that resemble squirrels and birds
People coming in the house
People walking by the house
People thinking about walking on the same street as our house
Dogs walking by the house
Dogs barking in another yard
The air compressor
The lawn mower
When he’s hungry
When he’s tired
When he wants to go outside
When he wants more room on the couch
And for some reason, Vito is NOT a fan of our idiot neighbors.
(This has nothing to do with us bad-mouthing and making fun of them on a daily basis. I swear.)
And he does not like being interrupted when he’s about to go on a walk.
So tonight, when I walked out the front door and saw our neighbor on her doorstep, I knew I was in trouble.
NOSY NEIGHBOR: “Hi.”
She gets points for being friendly. But she loses points for being nosy. And annoying.
ME: “Hi.” I’m trying to control Vito, who is so excited to be outside and can’t wait to water the big oak tree.
As she starts talking to me, out of the corner of my eye I see a woman canvassing the neighborhood.
NN: “My kids like climbing your tree.”
Visions of half-naked kids falling off branches and lawsuits fill my head.
ME: “I hope they don’t fall out and get hurt.”
Translation: keep your kids out of my tree. And yard. (And life!)
Vito spots the strange woman, who is wearing a blue “Democratic Party” T-shirt and carrying a clipboard. He announces her arrival with a ridiculously loud barking fit. Whenever this happens if you just close your eyes you’d swear there was a pit bull in front of you.
NN: “They just love your yard. That little slope there, they call it a ‘mountain’. And today when they were in your tree Micah said to me, ‘Mommy, we’re not supposed to be doing this’.”
I have a newfound respect for Micah, who at 6, is the smartest family member.
ME: “Umm hmm.” I’m trying to control Vito who is doing all he can to wrangle away from me and run to the Democratic Princess who is walking up our driveway.
DP: “Oh uh, looks like this might not be a good time.”
Vito is barking LIKE A PSYCHOPATH and trying to charge her.
ME: “You think?”
DP (taking a step towards my front door): “Should I just ring the bell?”
You see me standing outside here with an out of control dog, and you want to ring the bell?
ME: “Um, nobody’s home.” Because I’m standing out here. In the driveway. With the dog. Who is barking. At YOU.
DP: “Oh, okay.” Then she sees my neighbor, who is completely trapped on her front steps. “Hi. I’m with the Democratic Convention…”
She starts her spiel about going door to door, registering to vote, etc., etc.
Vito and I make our way out of the line of questioning and round the corner. It’s a nice night for a walk. Vito prances excitedly in front of me.
When we don’t have any interruptions, we usually have a nice walk. We vary our routes, peeing on all blades of grass equally. I know where all the dogs in the neighborhood live, so that even if we’re lucky enough to avoid them out on their nightly exercise, we can skillfully avoid them lounging in their electronic-fenced yards.
However, on those nights that Vito sees (or hears – dogs have amazing hearing!) something from the above list, forget it. There’s out-of-control barking, which is highly embarrassing. It looks like we never trained Vito how to walk on a leash and behave in social settings (NOTE: we didn’t). This raucous behavior usually results in me swooping my arm under Vito’s chest and holding him as we hurry past the offender. For some reason, Vito doesn’t bark when he’s being carried.
But, due to the Exercise Class From Hell on Sunday, there’s no way I could possibly pick Vito up with inflicting severe pain throughout my entire lower half.
And because karma’s a bitch, we have company as we approach the 4-way intersection.
What I want to do is make my way quietly (and conspicuously) across the street to the sidewalk on the left side of the street. Give Vito a chance to poop, then quietly head home.
However, I’m faced with a dilemma.
Coming at us from the right, is an octogenarian SLOWLY making his way down the sidewalk with his cane. Even though he’s moving only a slight notch above “completely still”, Vito senses the activity and whips his head around.
Damn. The geezer sees Vito and waves.
I barely notice the old man because I’m focused on the black cat sitting on the right side of the street across from us. The cat is not moving, its piercing green eyes fixated on Vito. I mentally will the cat to “play dead” by remaining immobile, and not to run away and cause a commotion.
At the same time Vito and I sense motion to our left and we both turn to see a woman walking up the sidewalk pushing a baby carriage with a dog on a leash.
You’ve GOT to be kidding me.
The feisty tan dog on the pink leash begins the barking festivities. And barking with dogs is like yawning with humans, totally contagious. Before I know it both Vito and his new friend are participating in a duet.
I give the woman my best, “Dogs. What can you do??!!” face (with shoulders shrugging) as she shouts a command to her dog who in turns stops barking and sits quietly at her feet. Show off.
(The face she gives me back (disapproving and incredulous) is more along the lines of, “Don’t you know how to control your dog???”)
I continue to drag Vito across the street, shouting some commands of my own. They sound something like, “Please stop barking! You’re embarrassing Mommy!” and (my favorite, bartering with the puppy): “If you stop barking Mommy will give you extra treats when we get home!”
Vito is temporarily distracted by two squirrels playing tag in a yard and forgets about the geezer, dog and baby.
But just to keep things interesting, the black cat bolts towards us and crosses our path.
Unbridled barking ensues.
Who says 2 classes of dog obedience isn’t shining through. Normally, Vito would have chased after the cat.