Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Dog's Life

I have a dog who chases helicopters. I suspect this behavior began because my office is on the second floor of my house and my desk is next to a big double-hung window. Cosmo likes to lie by my feet while I'm working, just under the low window sill. From that vantage point, he can only see the tops of trees, an occasional bird, and the helicopters that fly overhead. The birds are too quick and too quiet to capture his attention. Planes also fly above us but, while Cosmo can hear them, they're usually too high for him to see. However, helicopters, with their distinctive drone and low altitude, excite him every time.

When Cosmo hears a helicopter, he leaps up, all seven pounds of him, and stands on his hind legs, with his front paws on the window sill, scanning the sky for the offending aircraft, all the while growling, barking, and wagging his tail. When he finally has the helicopter in his sights, his barking increases exponentially. This continues until the helicopter leaves Cosmo's airspace—that is, until he can't see it anymore.

Of course, trapped as he is in my office, Cosmo can't actually chase the helicopter. For that, he needs to be outside. While other dogs focus on squirrels or bunnies, Cosmo is ever on the alert for an aerial opponent. As soon as he hears the telltale whine of a helicopter, he strains at his leash and searches the sky. When Cosmo was younger, he often didn't know where the noise was coming from. I would point in the direction of the helicopter and Cosmo would look at my arm or down the street, anywhere but up. Eventually, however, he got the idea. Now, if he doesn't immediately spot the helicopter on his own, he turns to me for help and his eyes follow my pointing finger up into the sky. When he at last sees the helicopter, delirium ensues. Picture, if you will, an apoplectic apricot bundle of fur, complete with furious barking, frantic running, and fierce growling.

When the helicopter eventually disappears from view, Cosmo invariably looks at me with an expression that can only be described as triumphant. And he walks with an unmistakable swagger. After all, in his mind, Cosmo hasn't been barking ineffectually at an unreachable enemy. He's vanquished the helicopter and chased it clear out of his territory. He's heard the enemy, seen it, and barked it away.

If only my life were that simple.


Kim Mosley said...

We all bark at lots of things that we dislike, and then, mistakenly, believe that the change occurred because of the noise we made.

Anonymous said...

I had an experience where I was in the midst of an amorous encounter on a blanket in the woods near a school with which you are familiar... one evening, and a helicopter flew over and shone a spotlight on us... All the dogs in the neighborhood, nearby began barking... It was less than a romantic experience...I am not doing that again! This was a few years ago...