This I Believe

Sarah - Eustis, Florida
Entered on August 25, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe I should try to stop my dogs from barking inthe middle of the night. I live out in the country with my closest neighbors being 7 acres away, but if I’m awake, listening to canine chatter chances are strong that someone else is, too. And that’s never good.

Our three dogs often wait until about 2 in the morning to begin their day. And why not? In Central Florida, it doesn’t even begin to cool off until after midnight. Barking long enough and loud enough to wake up the neighbors requires a lot of energy, so daylight hours are best spent sleeping in damp dirt dug-outs. My dogs love the night life. They like to boogie.

In The Glass Menagerie, Tom Wingfield says one of the meanest things he can say to his mother, Amanda. Every morning when he hears her say, “Rise and Shine! Rise and Shine!” he says to himself: “How lucky dead people are!” But he gets up. And every time I hear my dogs barking for more than ten minutes in the middle of the night, I get up.

I get up, not because I think they’ve treed a villain but because I don’t want my neighbors to hate me because of something I didn’t do. I figure that, even if I could manage to ignore and sleep on, that would make me a bad community member. Locke’s Social Contract theory still holds sway in the rural South.

Despite their nocturnal leanings, my pooches aren’t friendless. Depending on my companions’ bark du jour, the neighbors’ dogs decide whether to chime in with their two cents. From what I have surmised, if Georgia, Buddy, or Carson are scared or are trying to alert me to some danger cloaked in darkness, they’re on their own. However, if God graces them with an unsuspecting gopher turtle who also decided to troll the pasture at night, an entire Greek chorus joins in to help them narrate the turtle tragedy that is sure to follow.

Getting me up and getting them quiet are two very different things. Sometimes, all it takes is the porch light and an angry rap or two on the glass sliding doors. The light is for them; the angry rap is for me. Sometimes, an open bathroom window…which never opens loudly enough to convey my true feelings…and a whistle or a shouted “HUSH!” does the trick. As a very last resort, I bring all three of them inside. All three of their un-bathed, itchy, scratchy, drooly, happy, happy, happy to see me…selves. So, at times, I do, basically, reward bad behavior. But then I go back to bed. My neighbors’ dogs continue to howl their questions and advice, but I finally get back to sleep, knowing that at least I did my job right.