I’ve learned so much about myself since we acquired three dogs, one at a time. One is a German shepherd mix named Copper. One is a Jack Russell / Chihuahua mix named Frisky. And the master of the house is a purebred miniature dachshund named Buddy. Even though Buddy can walk under Copper who clears him by at least 10 inches, Buddy is clearly the alpha dog. I’ve enjoyed watching their interactions with each other. Even though Copper could easily eat Buddy for lunch, there is a respect in the two youngest dogs (they both just turned one year old) toward Buddy, who is four. Size doesn’t matter. The decibel level of the bark doesn’t matter. The who-can-run-the-fastest gauge doesn’t matter. Buddy is clearly the master. Buddy is the king of this house.

With these three in the house, I’ve learned to tune out the barking, the playful snarling, the plop-plop-plop of dog bodies hitting the floor in rough-housing.  I’ve learned to pull myself out of the book I’m writing to give a quick kiss or pat, enough to satisfy the dog checkin’-in with me, and get back to my work. My three boys don’t need as much every-two-minutes attention, but they check in, too. They tell me what they’re reading, watching, doing on the computer, a game they just heard about, a place they visited in the neighborhood with some other boys, etc. But the boys’ decibel levels in speaking are far less, of course, than the dogs’.

Buddy barks at everyone and every thing. In the middle of the night, he’ll bark at a cat walking by our house, or a gang of dogs sniffing out the trash cans in the neighborhood, or a car driving too slowly on our street. All the dogs bark at the squirrels running on the wood fence in our back yard, or a squirrel flying from limb to limb in our trees, or a cat that got caught on the back porch. I can tell you what they’re barking at by the sound of their barks. No kidding. Barking at a squirrel is a “yap”. Barking at a cat is a “yelp”. Barking at the stray gang of dogs is a growl and then a wild chorus of frantic barks. I love the different sounds of their barks. It means home to me.

But right now, our three boys are taking the three dogs for a long walk. About an hour. Not a sound in the house but my fingers on these keys, typing away. It’s so quiet. Too quiet. I can hear their echoes in the house.

I look toward the front door and listen for sounds of them returning, but I hear nothing. I wonder just how much longer they’re going to be gone.