Parker Heinlein

Parker Heinlein

I fear I may be missing the message.

For his entire life, my dog Ace has played second and third fiddle to other dogs. Going on 9 now, he’s entering the twilight of his undistinguished career.

While his nose is money, his aversion to retrieving meant he always had to hunt with another dog, preferably one that would retrieve. A close-worker, he Hoovers the cover immediately in front of me, fearing, perhaps, that if he didn’t, I might step on a bird.

If a bird happens to cross our path, he’ll pick up the scent and follow it, but he never wanders far from my side.

Ace slobbers, is seldom clean, and can’t remove even the easiest of cockleburs from his coat, but his least endearing habit is barking, ceaseless barking. He barks in the yard, he barks at children, he barks when I feed him.

And he always barks when we return from a hunt. Riding in his box in the back of the truck, he’ll be quiet until we hit town, then he opens up.

I thought it was just Ace letting all the town dogs know he was back, but it’s been suggested to me that it may be something more.

Like sounds from outer space or the singing of whales, Ace’s caterwauling might be more than just noise. It could be a message.

I tried recording him and playing the tape backwards, ala “Paul is dead,” hoping to translate the racket, to no avail. It still sounded like nothing more than a barking dog, although instead of arf, arf, it came out fra, fra.

I’m trying to listen more closely to Ace when he barks instead of simply hollering “Shut up!” which has no effect. Apparently, when he’s barking, Ace loses his hearing.

A friend recently mentioned that Ace’s barking sounded like code so I’m working to translate the woofs and yips into dots and dashes, and make some sense of it all.

I worry my dog may be an idiot savant and I’m not smart enough to uncover his special talent — which I hope is more than barking.

He’s a handsome boy, despite the ever-present sheen of dried slobber across his snout, and the peculiar funk he wears proudly.

I’m trying to be more patient with him, listening to what he has to say instead of trying to shut him up. It must be an important message. He sure repeats it a lot.

Parker Heinlein is at pman@mtintouch.net.