The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Dog’s Watch

Living Room, late on a Sunday evening.

Charlie gurgles a low growl, and gets up from his spot beside me to pace uneasily.  His direction is vague, he’s not sure what troubles him.  But if something in the night troubles him, it troubles me.

I open the door to let him out, and realize the neighbor dogs a quarter mile away are barking their fool heads off.  I douse the lights, and we slide out the front doorway sideways.  I take up a stand to the side of the door on the porch while Charlie tests the air, and we listen to the progression of barking.  When I lean against one of the posts to acclimate my sight and senses to the dark night, he instinctively drops into a defensive position lying in front of me, facing out.  Somewhere in his DNA, despite his daytime habits, he is a guard dog at heart.  He remains mostly silent, watching, listening, communicating with me occasionally with low, intimate growls.

I listen to the earnestness of the individual voices, and imagine the size, and shape, and personality of each of the distant dogs.  I wonder at what sort of disturbance would make them persist – usually the local fauna passing through gives them a chance to exercise a bit, but tonight, after 10 minutes, with different dogs chiming in and dropping off, whatever lurks seems to be real enough to them to warrant honest attention.  

One of the dogs has been a constant while others come and go – and he has a strong voice.  I figure him to be perhaps a Pit Bull or something similar, a bold beast.  Another has a quicker, higher voice like a herding dog – Border Collie perhaps.  The third I peg to be a mutt among mutts, I can’t really define him any other way.

We watch together, Charlie and I.  I think while I listen, and begin to acclimate to the night, of the stories from the books I read in childhood, of hunters and their dogs charging headlong into the night chasing coons, and bears, and sometimes men.   Men following the dogs’ voices with lantern held aloft against the pitch black of the forest.  I know I”m not going to see through this murky night, despite the stars visible through the canopy above.  I turn to my other senses and feel across the expanse to the fence, onto the gravel road beyond that passes our property, straining for any indication of the nature of the Hunted.  

In the midst of this watch-stander’s reverie, a hound from the next house further away bursts out.  Even the other dogs stop for a moment – they had been merely barking, but this – the solid full-throated bell of this baritone hound – it is a thing of beauty on this crisp night, a beautiful symphony of intent that fills the night air.  

Indeed, it changes the night air.  

Charlie lifts his head.  Yes, he feels it too, the urge to carom through the woods towards danger, the age-old instinct between a man and a dog, and quarry.  

The other voices fade.  The hound’s bugle call eventually falls silent.  Charlie and I patrol the fence line – partly to make sure our place is secure, and partly to wade deeper into this night’s Mystery, to test our mettle against its dark sorcery.

Until no other sound but the whisper of wind through the Pines remains, until Charlie’s growls subside, until our slow, silent steps unconsciously circle back to the porch, we remain a part of this night, vibrant in its intimate awareness.  The intruder has passed beyond threat, our work is done, and the sharp wooden echo of the porch’s planks beneath my feet ripples the still pool of sound around us.  The soft whoosh of the door’s weatherstrip whooshes across the slate floor inside, the insulated buzz of the indoors envelopes us again.  

Our watch is over. It’s rack time.

 

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