November 24, 2014
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Lullabye to a silent night
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Ollie has a voice.

We suspected that all along, although when we first met at the East Greenwich Animal Rescue League, he was silent. That’s not to say he wasn’t expressive. His tail was in perpetual motion and his smiley face melted your heart.

Carol and I wondered about the bark. Might he be a yapper? The thought of that was a put-off. Neither of us can stand yippy-snippy dogs.

Binky, our companion for 14 years, was well adjusted.

Well, most of the time. He learned to bark on command and followed instructions explicitly when food was involved: “Speak” was answered by a single authoritative bark. We soon learned that “Say” followed by two words were followed by two barks and three by three. So, if we said, “Say, good morning,” he’d bark twice.

What he became especially well versed at was, “Praise the Lord,” which was certain to transform one of Carol’s Bible study groups into gales of laughter. Naturally, after three resounding barks, Binky got to share in communion. He was a regular at Carol’s gatherings, his muzzle cradled between his paws and his brown eyes following the group – watching for food, I suspect – from the chair that was decidedly his.

But his barking wasn’t always so controlled. He was fiercely protective. Joggers on Bellman Avenue didn’t stand a chance. Binky would hurdle down the drive, skidding to a stop before he reached the gate with fangs bared and a torrent of barks loud enough to set the birds flying and crows to flapping their wings. By this point, the unsuspecting jogger was suddenly a sprinter with not so much as a look back.

Would Ollie be as aggressive? We had no way of knowing. On our pre-adoptive visits to the league, he was speechless and submissive. There wasn’t as much as a whine.

Yet, his breed said otherwise. Ollie is a southern hound dog. We were told he was picked up off the street in North Carolina and, seeing from the pictures, he had been homeless for some time. His haunches jutted out and his skin was pink in several spots where hair had been rubbed off, probably from the rope that he slipped to get away.

The league placed him in a foster home for a couple of weeks, a sort of quarantine, while the league completed blood work and assessed his disposition. His foster parents, Josh and Danielle, fattened him up and, from their description, he rapidly adapted to his new life of leisure.

But, was he a talker? There was nothing to indicate he would be a howler, one of our fears. Another concern was whether he had been trained to track. Would he take off in pursuit of some scent when off the leash?

So far, he hasn’t been free – not that we wouldn’t like him to have the run of the yard. He’s on medication and not until that is completed in a couple of months and we’re advised not to let him over-exercise. Some playing with his “Pullie,” a frayed piece of knotted rope is allowable, but for the most part he’s on a leash in the kitchen or an outdoor pen.

He’s taken to his new surroundings. He likes being with people and happily nuzzles arrivals like long lost friends. He loves the car and Carol has taken him to many of the locations she used to walk Binky.

Now that he’s gotten to know us, we find it endearing when he rolls on his back and exposes his spotted belly that is now pleasantly plump. He is looking for a rub and, when that comes, he often closes his eyes with a blissful look.

He’s also discovered his voice, or he’s gained the confidence to express himself. And he’s getting his way, which has me questioning whether we’re going to hear a lot more.

He started last week after we put him in his crate for the night. He knows the routine: We take him upstairs to the room opposite ours around 9; he follows us into the room and waits for Carol to drop a treat into the crate; then he sits there munching while she latches the door; we say good night; turn off the lights; and shut the door.

Ten minutes later we heard a low whine, like a distant teakettle.

We looked at each other. Now what? Was this going to become a habit? Could we break it? We waited. The whine morphed into a pathetic cry followed by a long howl. It sounded like he was being tortured. Carol couldn’t stand it. Maybe he had gotten caught in the crate! Maybe he was hurt!

She found him standing in his crate looking perfectly well and quite satisfied with her reaction. She commanded him to lie down. He kept watching her. She laid down beside the crate. He laid down. There was silence. I went back to the computer.

I assumed Carol was downstairs reading while I worked, but an hour later, when I finally had gotten through all the e-mails, the hall was dark and the lights were out.

The door to the adjoining room was ajar. I poked my head in and, in the dim light, I could see Carol had pulled a comforter off the bed and was asleep on the floor. Ollie was curled up in his crate. I closed the door and decided it was time to go to bed.

I could see the future – maybe as he had planned it – Ollie would be sleeping in our room, or we would be sleeping in his.


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