“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx
Sometimes you just have to wonder. Two days after we brought our beloved Miles home from the animal shelter, he sauntered into the garden, raised his snout and began an elaborate sequence of bays and yips that went on for about two minutes. Clearly done, he resumed sniffing, then settled onto the deck with a contented sigh.
“What was that?” My husband, a behavioral ecologist, was intrigued. “Do you think he was actually telling the other neighborhood dogs who he is or where he is?”
Whatever it was, we’ll probably never know. Not only did he never repeat the performance, he never bayed again. That was our single clue that his ancestry must include a beagle or some kind of hound that can actually make that noise.
Over the years, other hints of breed have surfaced. He watches for hand and eye signals, leaping to the front door if he sees anyone even touch a sneaker. And, he herds — people, trees, park benches — speeding around his “sheep” in an ever-tightening circle and coming to an abrupt, belly-on-the-grass stop when he’s satisfied that everything is where it should be.
Yet, he turns into a nearly feral coyote-like creature when he’s hiking off leash. And, he doesn’t track us through the house like herding dogs usually do. He is, in fact, wherever he wants to be, whenever he wants to be. And, he smiles. He literally smiles.
We eventually gave up on trying to guess his pedigree. Whenever anyone asks us what our fluffy, many-colored, bandana-wearing dog is, we simply say, “Appalachian porch dog.” The kind of people who find today’s quote amusing generally smile.
One year, that was his official breed designation at the county courthouse. I’m guessing there was a kindred spirit in the assessor’s office. Or, we’ve somehow become hipsters when our teenagers weren’t looking. Or, the AKC has finally caught on to a good thing.
Again, we may never know.