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Watch dogs don't always know what to watch

hen a person lives in the country, they should expect an occasional intrusion into one's life from the local wildlife. A person does not have to like it, but they need to expect visits from the locals anyway.

To prevent a downright invasion, we keep three dogs around. They are considered the watch dogs and most of the time all they do is watch. Dulce, the standard poodle, is the indoor watch dog. She is would like to be outside all the time in order to attack marauding squirrels and such, but her primary job is to bark when someone comes down the driveway. She does not hesitate to let us know if we are being invaded with squirrels, but only gets to chase them on her days off.

Coty, the Labrador Retriever, spends most of his time resting in front of the back door. If a major skirmish is required, it is best to be well rested before battle. If something terrible happens such as an opossum trying to get into the bird feeders, he is capable of sounding the alarm, but would prefer Dulce come help him when it becomes necessary to encourage the wildlife to move back to the wilds. 

Duke is still trying to find his place on the farm. Being an Old English Mastiff, he knows his job in life is to guard. Being a year and a half old, he is not sure what it is that he is supposed to guard and from what he is guarding. He pretty much guards everyplace from everything. He has yet to learn it is not necessary to prevent farmers from going into the cafe across the road. They are called customers and it does not build good neighborly relationships to chase them off. The horses belong in the pasture. He seems to be accepting that fact, but they had better not reach over the fence. Visitors to our house and wildlife still cause him a bit of confusion. 

The other night, Duke was up in the barn, barking like crazy. I assumed he was barking at the horses since they were in the barn eating. When I finally went to the barn, I found a new sack of shelled corn torn open and scattered about. A raccoon had stopped in for dinner and helped himself while a giant dog bark harmlessly a few feet away. At the time of all the commotion, Coty was diligently watching the back door while Dulce lounged in front of the fire inside. They were not going to be any help in his time of crisis. Somewhere along the line, Duke has found wild animals have sharp teeth and claws.

It is best to let Dulce do the dirty work. Coty will help bark, but Dulce is the only one in the group with the courage to attack a determined raccoon. 

Duke also has not figured out people. There are guests and there are prowlers. He must know there is a difference but has yet to determine what that difference is. To solve the question, he treats everyone the same. It does not help that both react the same. When people see a 170-pound dog with ropes of drool hanging from his floppy lips racing across the yard at them, they have a tendency to run and scream. A cross-body block just above the knees will drop a person and they always roll on their back to ward off the attack. When he lays across the person's chest and drools into their face, they are pinned. Duke finds it even more entertaining if they struggle and attempt to get away. He can stay on top as fast as a collegiate wrestler. The only way up is to have someone call him off.

His natural protective instinct could be very handy, but so far, we have had a real shortage of prowlers. I only know of his watchdog ability from my having to call him off friends and family. People have started to call before stopping in for a visit. He does not bite anyone, but I think some people would rather be bitten.

Different dogs have skill levels when it comes to being watch dogs. They may range from almost worthless to close to ridiculous, but they seem pleased when they feel they have done their job. The squirrel passing through the yard or the UPS man might have different opinions, but we still think of them as our trusty watch dogs.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.