Tuesday, 29 January 2013


I open my eyes to music. I rise up to a dawn chorus.

The first morning sound I hear is Paddy at the woodstove, emptying the ash-box, piling up the tinder, striking matches. He puts on the coffee. He says hello to Bob the Canary and fills the little seed-tray and slices up an apple or fig or plum. Paddy and Bob share that for their breakfast. I hear all this from my bed in the room upstairs, through the cracks in the floorboards that are the kitchen ceiling. (I take my waking slow.)

On the other side of the meter-thick wall of adobe bricks, the Big Dogs hear Paddy move, they hear Bob chirp. And so begins the Dawn Chorus of the Peaceable.

Bella says “woof.” Just once. Then Harry joins with his staccato baritone: “arf arf arf.”
And if the sun is just right, and she feels in the mood, Lulu pitches her pointy muzzle toward the rafters and softly, tenderly say “ooooo.”

Tim and Rose, the Inside Dogs, hear them from their comfy beds by the fire. If it is still dark outside, they stay quiet. If he deems the hour decent, Tim will bark. If it´s Rosie´s turn, she yodels. Rosie has a remarkably human voice, and like a lot of small yappy dogs, she could talk if she wanted to. She could probably conjugate preterite verbs if she could be bothered.

All our dogs know when it is time for their breakfasts, and for their morning walk – the high point of their day. By 8 a.m. their food-processing equipment is at the end of its cycle, and the holding tanks are at capacity. Their bellies are empty, but their hearts are full of joy. It is time to sing.

So they do, five dogs strong – barks, moans, yodels, yowls. A mournful, funny racket, a wonderful way to be roused from bed. And from the window of my room above the town I can hear the song spread southward through the fog.

In the garage across the alley live Oliva and Justi´s dogs, a brutal German shepherd and a white-muzzled old pointer. They never go outdoors. They have a lot to howl about, and they do it very well. They harmonize with a smooth doo-wop kind of woo-woo-woo.

The song is taken up next in the haymow behind Segundino´s carpentry shop, where five or six assorted dogs spend their lives. One of them routinely barks throughout the night. He does not sleep, he does not eat. He lives to bark. And at dawn, with the start of the yowl, his backbeat is engulfed by the songs of his brothers. They shriek and descant, they add operatic coloratura runs, they leap and run. From Pilar´s splendid garden come song stylings of little Perla, the pup who looks like she´s made of pipe-cleaners.

I do not know if the Dawn Chorus extends right on down to the Plaza, to include yappy little Roque and Esteban´s Terry and Toby, and over to Manolo´s barnyard full of baying beasts. Our dogs slack off after a couple of minutes, just long enough for us to hear the reverb shivering up the street. It is brief, intense,  and magnificent.

Tim and Rosie then slink back into their beds. They do not look at our faces. 

The truth comes out in the morning, and they know it. These dogs are really wolves, every one of them. There are more dogs in this town than people. And they are only pretending to be tame.

So we´d better get a move on with the kibble.


EileenHamer said...

I'm not sure Peaceable quite works with your conglomeration of critters. There must be a verb for this.. .

kimster said...

i miss the wild rumpus!

ksam said...

Wonderful post! I now know where my oldest sons dog went. They said Noel died,but apparently she moved to Spain. That dog could bark thru a barking collar. The kids had to stop putting it on her because they couldn't afford the batteries for it. She didn't stop, just changed her pitch and continued barking! Mad Mad dog! May she find peace, where ever it is she ended up! Dunno if Doggie Heaven was ready for her!

EileenHamer said...

What I meant was not sure the name "Peaceable" works with the cacophony. Never mind. Thanks for the great review for along the Ravenswood! Grumpy today, suffering from Camino Envy after watching the trailer for the newest Camino film.