Published by the Rains County Leader on August 4, 2020:
Our next door neighbors have dogs. First there was one, and then there must have been a visitor because there were puppies. All the puppies went away except one, so then there were two. One is black and is chained under a tree, and the other one is brown and is normally kept in a pen. Apparently, the two resident dogs had visitation privileges or the originally visitor returned because there were puppies again – five of them. They were cute little things. Four were brown with black faces and/or paws, and one was black. For reasons unknown to me, these puppies stayed, and now there are seven.
At first we didn’t see much of the puppies. We had to move the motor home from behind the house because David got tired of digging the tires out of the gopher runs. Now it’s parked between us and the neighbors and blocks our view of what I’ve unofficially dubbed as the Puppy Patrol. When we drove by their yard on our way to town, we would occasionally see them tumbling around in a pile, but mostly they stayed in the pen with the brown dog who is apparently Mama.
The first time I saw them in our yard was during the shutdown when it was still cool enough to sit on the porch to read and wave at passersby. I heard barking, which was not unusual, but this was closer than normal. I looked up to see Mama standing in front of the motor home with her head down so she could see under it. One – or more – of the pups had wandered under the huge vehicle, and she was scolding them furiously. They must have scampered out the other side, because she soon disappeared toward her own yard.
It wasn’t long before the Puppy Patrol began making rounds unaccompanied by Mama. I can’t tell all the brown ones apart, but one of them is definitely the alpha of the litter and is always in the lead when they come for a visit. One morning I looked up from my reading to see him standing at the corner of the house staring at me curiously. The other three brown ones were lined up behind him, and the black one was bringing up the rear. She’s the timid one. I stared back for a little while and then said, “Boo!” They turned tail and ran for home with Timid yipping all the way. The Patrol visited frequently after that, venturing a little closer each time. Once Alpha even dared to put his front paws on the steps and bark at me – but he still ran when I said “Boo!”
They tired of that little game as they grew bigger and bolder. I would often see them run across the back of our lot, probably following the scent of deer who graze back there from time to time. They also visit the spot in the trees on the unoccupied lot on the other side of our yard where I dump food scraps. One day I saw them making a foray to the dump site, each returning home proudly waving a strip of cantaloupe peel. And last weekend David saw one of them carrying a chunk of watermelon rind. I wonder if they actually ate those or just tossed them around and made a mess.
They’ve become a little territorial as they’ve gotten older. When we go out into the back yard, they sometimes line up along the property line and warn us off with lots of noise. Of course, Alpha is usually a few steps out front and Timid is a few steps behind everyone else. I’ve given up saying “Boo” to them, because they’re no longer afraid of me, but all they do is bark, so it’s all good.
It wasn’t so good for one resident last week, though. It was mid-afternoon – the time when they normally make their rounds – when I heard enthusiastic barking under our dining room windows. I looked out and could see that Alpha had something pinned down against the skirting of the mobile home. Two members of the Patrol were looking curiously over his shoulder, one was guarding the rear about halfway to their yard, and Timid was way over toward their pen. I stepped out onto the back porch to see what was causing all the ruckus, and found a turtle huddled between the skirting and the tarp that covers the riding mower. Since the Patrol no longer responds to my voice at any volume, I followed Roosevelt’s advice and picked up a big stick. They scattered, leaving the turtle to continue his way to wherever he was going.
We only see the pups once or twice a day when they go out for a bit of exercise. I’m not sure if they’re penned the rest of the time or if they just sleep a lot. Either way, they’re not much of a bother – at least not until the neighborhood doggie grape vine gets stirred up. When the mailman makes his rounds or somebody trees a squirrel or the dog across the circle just wants to know what’s going on, every dog between here and the lake begins to bark. With an extra five voices next door, it gets pretty noisy.
There’s one other thing that concerns me. The Puppy Patrol members are not really puppies any more. They are getting close to breeding age, and unless they all visit the vet soon, that Patrol is going to turn into an Army. Then I’ll be really bothered!