Harper Finds His Voice

Like most grown adults without children, my life naturally revolves around my dog. I’ve often said that Harper fills the void left in our life, which, truth be told, isn’t altogether untrue. Our chocolate lab/Australian Shepherd mix is always there to happily greet us when we wake up or anytime we walk through the front door for that matter and he has an adorable penchant for cuddling and bestowing pure admiration and affection. In fact, he is laying his beautiful head on my arm right at this very moment.

It has recently occurred to my husband and I that although we enjoy his quiet, gentle manner and teddy bear-like persona, it might be wise to help him find his inner dog. Living in an inner city neighborhood he often serves as a walking bottle of mace to shady-looking passers by. They catch one glimpse of our 80 pound best friend and they quickly cross to the other side of the street. Children run. Grown men shiver. Unbeknownst to them, Harper wouldn’t hurt a mouse. In fact, one time he actually chased one into our apartment while trying to make friends with it.

So, my husband and I decided it might be useful for Harper to learn how to bark, should the situation arise where we fear for things such as life or property. He doesn’t bark very often, only when he wants to make a point rather emphatically, which, I must say, he does.
That’s why lately our upstairs neighbor has been hearing, “Woof! Woof! Speak! Woof! Woof! WOOOOOF! Good boy! Good boy!”

When I recently passed her in the street the subject naturally came up and she just had to ask. Why were we encouraging our lab with the deep husky fear-of-god bark to bark?
“Most people try to get their dog to stop barking,” she said a little bewildered. “Why encourage him to start?”

“Because,” I said, “he needs to know how and as his mother I must teach him.”

So, we’ve been practicing and I think he really is getting better. Each time I say, “Speak,” poor Harper really tries. You can see his whole body gearing up. He starts to rock back and forth with a look of determination. He mutters a few airy sounding deep breaths. Sometimes no noise comes out all at. But, eventually, when he works up the nerve, he can really let one out.

The ground shakes, my body shutters and my upstairs neighbor shakes her head. I can’t help it. I am proud.

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