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Dog Talk.

When I was growing up, we had a dog named Sunshine. She was a present given to us for not creating chaos in the movie theatre at the Saturday matinee (I think we were seeing “The Rescuers”) one sunny summer afternoon in August ’75.

Sunshine moved into the dog house that had been vacated a couple of years before by Dad’s German Shepard, Hausho. Hausho had to move to a new home because he barked all the time and kept my neighboring grandparents awake. Sunshine was a mix of Husky and Collie. She was an outside dog, chained to her house 24/7, because that’s what dogs in our neck of the woods did. We’d go out and play with her and feed her and such but she rarely left the chain that tied her to the house. She kept tabs with all the other dogs in the neighborhood through what I called the “bark chain”. A dog in town would bark some coded message, which would be then passed from neighboring dog to neighboring dog. All the dogs barked in the same cadence with the same type of inflection in their voice, though the message varied in pitch depending on the breed doing the speaking. It was kind of like “Lucky is getting screwed by Rover as I speak, pass it on…”

I rarely thought of the bark chain until we started camping this week. Though there are a limited number of dogs here at Cumberland Bay State Park, they’re keeping in communication by barking their messages from one end of the park to the other. Neighbors talk over the fence, dogs pass their message over campfire lit skies, apparently.

One surprising aspect of the bark chain here at the bark is that it’s often spurred by the fog horn of a woman living in what Earl and I have dubbed the “welfare section” of the park. The park lies between Route 314 and Lake Champlain, and has a decided hill or knoll the runs down the middle of it. We’re on the lake side of the hill and can’t hear any noise from the road. Those that are on the road side of the hill, hear nothing but the road and can’t see or hear the lake.

That’s where the “cheap seats” are.

Over on that side of the park you’ll see the ripped tents, older, beat-up popup campers and folks that are missing a few teeth. Among this area is a beat up woman in her mid to late 50s that often wears a bikini three sizes too small. If you want to be optimistic about the scene, her cellulite is three sizes too big. She has the demeanor of an orangutan, often yelling at her kids of triple-digit decibel levels. “Polly you shut up right now because the whole park can hear you!” Earl and I can hear her clear as a bell, keeping in mind that we’re at site 75 and she’s at site six. And on the other side of the dividing knoll.

After she yells these instructions to her kids, at any hour of the day, you’ll hear the “bark chain” kick into gear. Apparently her shrill voice is reaching the same frequency as a Springer Spaniel.

Good thing she looks the part.

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