How the Hen House Turns: Talking Dogs

How the Hen House Turns: Talking Dogs
Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

The dogs are 13 now. They must walk carefully up the back steps lest they slip and fall on their arthritic hips. They are still eager to watch the birds, when I let them out into the yard to graze.

Correction—the dogs are happy to pay the price of sitting outside until early afternoon in order to receive a large milk bone reward. I can only hope that they won’t sleep through the next coyote invasion. They may be a deterrent, but they, nor I, can do anything to protect the chickens from a dedicated hungry hawk attack.

The bird-sitting does help the dogs’ arthritis. The occasional squirrel or crow keeps them more active when they’re out.

I should know better than to give them their treat after the birds are also out. Turkey can smell a milk bone 50 yards away, and though we’ve never had a bad “accident,” Scooter has been known to snap and growl at the large bird under her protection and Turkey doesn’t understand the danger she could be in, having been raised with dogs as her caretakers.

We keep the dogs in their room during the day, especially when its wet and muddy outside. Without their bird-sitting duties, they would sleep all day in their “den” under my door-on-file cabinets art desk. They respect the baby gate that signals “stay put” when I balance it across the hall.

In the living room, the couch I relax in is visible from the improvised hall gate. There they stand, those two dogs, when they see me, and they begin to beg, verbally. Scooter knows I can’t resist her “ow-awl-ooo,” talk. It does wonders in motivating us humans. It even gets us off the couch at 4 p.m. for a walk to the park.

I think such begging is beneath DeeDee’s dignity, though she will give me a good loud “Arrrowoor,” at the gate, if I am late with breakfast.

It is their evening treat to be invited to “keep us company” in the living room. With an invitation, the gate comes aside and they race down the hall like puppies, hoping I will have a pan to lick. When it’s time for bed, they retreat to their den at an amazingly slow pace, their tales at low mast, their eyes averted as they plod down the hall to their beds.

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