Cricket thinks she’s the Town Sheriff. She’s fluffy, and barely fifteen pounds, but she believes it is her job to protect her home, to the death if necessary. She rains barks on people, but she can’t discern between deserving targets and innocent victims.
As soon as we moved into our new apartment, Cricket realized that her greatest challenge, by far, is the Seven Eleven up the block. We live just around the corner from what is clearly the neighborhood hub. People fill the parking lot and the sides of the street and flow in and out all day, for the twenty varieties of coffee, a wall of sandwiches, miscellaneous doodads and a chance to schmooze. Cricket thinks schmoozing will lead to chaos, so she barks warnings at truck drivers, moms, teenagers from the local high school, and men who hesitate to leave the safety of their cars.
As we walk past the Seven Eleven, there’s a bus stop and then a train station. A lot of innocent bystanders, waiting for transportation, see my cute fluffy dogs and get a big surprise when Cricket opens her mouth with a blast of rat-a-tat-tat. More than one victim has clasped his heart in shock. (Women are never shocked. I find this interesting.)
When people come to visit us, Cricket’s bark-o-meter gets jammed and she can’t shut it off. She barks at anyone who dares to enter her sacred space and continues to bark even after they leave, running to the door as if to say, “and another thing!”
The only way to calm her down is to hold her in my arms, or let her climb on my head and neck like a monkey. With enough physical contact and reassurance, she will sputter down into an occasional rumbly growl. But if I let go, or, God forbid, put her down on the floor, all hell breaks loose again.
Most visitors expect Cricket to quiet down, eventually. They figure, I’m nice, I’m not here to rob anyone, she’ll figure that out and give up the fight. Nope.
Cricket barks at the maintenance men when they come to mow the lawn. She barks when she hears a door closing in another apartment, or footsteps in the hall, or the mail being delivered. When she’s on the stairs or in the lobby of our building, her voice resonates like she’s barking inside of a tuba.
I had hoped that Butterfly’s calmer demeanor would help Cricket reexamine her prejudices and maybe learn some Zen, but the improvements, in this area, have been minor. If anything, Cricket has recruited Butterfly as her deputy.