Every afternoon at sunset I walk with Jasmine into the neighborhood, weaving in and out of road and desert and yards and parking lots. Jasmine stays right near me or heels on my left when there’s traffic. I keep a leash tied around my waist but rarely need to use it. A command to a dog is whatever you say it is, and when I want her to heel I say “stay with mommy Jasmine.” She is all business on our walks, totally different from the number-one barker she is whenever a person or animal walks by our house, or when a vehicle passes that she doesn’t like. She hates the local garbage truck. They all do. It’s a big noisy contraption. They try to chase it by starting their barking as the truck comes rumbling down the street, then they run around the house as fast as they can to the other end of the yard to bark at it some more after it passes. But, the barking can get annoying and sometimes we have to yell SHUDDUP or SETTLEDOWN or KNOCKITOFF.
Sometimes a neighborhood dog will start a large-scale howlfest, and there’s no way you can shut them up until they’ve finished. I can hardly think of a house in our neighborhood that doesn’t have at least one big dog whose job it is to guard that one piece of turf—all connected to the next piece of turf by field-fencing or chain link. We live on the edge of the neighborhood, on the side of the street that is bordered by the desert behind us.
So when we walk past other people’s yards it makes their dogs bark. But Jasmine takes her responsibility to guard me so seriously that she ignores all dogs. Most dogs just bark at us, but some dogs throw themselves repeatedly against gates or jump up so high I think another inch and we’re dead. Some dogs are loose. Jackrabbits leap about ubiquitously. Quail and roadrunners and a hundred other kinds of birds flitter and strut. We pass a through a feral cat colony. But Jasmine and I hike on. I am so proud of her. People say she looks a little bit like a coyote, and she’s just big enough at 45 lbs. to look like she might hurt somebody who tried to harass me, which I believe she would but have never had to test. Jasmine is the snippiest dog we have—she comes from tough beginnings and still has some wildness in her and I love her even more for it.
If I have to pass a permanently chained dog it ruins my walk and my day and thinking of it now fills me with grief and disgust. Ya feel that?
When the moon is full and bright in a clear sky, it makes the coyotes howl and in turn, the neighborhood dogs. There’s an awful lot of barking late into the night. This is the barkiest neighborhood I’ve ever lived in. You really just have to cope.