Monday, September 6, 2010

A Dog With A Nose For Books


Ben, our four-year-old Jack Russell, is barking hysterically. I know that bark. It means he has spotted a squirrel in our back yard. I let him outside, and very soon, the hysterical bark will be followed by a rather girly yap when he eventually and inevitably chases the squirrel up a white-bird tree. He’ll spend the rest of the afternoon circling the tree and shredding its large green fronds. He never captures the squirrel.

Ben has many barks. I can read them better than I could ever read my children’s cries when they were babies. There is the staccato bark that means, “Let me inside.” There is the patient and measured bark that if left to his own desires, he could maintain all day for the pelicans and egrets who land on our dock. There is “help me on the bed” whimper, the “fill my bowl” chirp, the snort that passes for a bark when we ask him to speak in exchange for a cookie, and the squeak that follows an especially large yawn.

Because I can read these barks, I knew the delivery man had arrived the other day when Ben, while sitting on the back of the couch and looking out the front window, began to growl. The growl grew steadily louder, and as the delivery man made his way up our driveway, carrying a large brown box with both hands, the growl turned into a high-pitched yap. Ben raced off the couch, sprinted down the steps and exploded into a hysterical snarling fit when the delivery man deposited the box on our front porch.

We have had many such fits lately as my kids recently started school and various delivery men have been delivering textbooks to our house. But school had been underway for several days, and all books had been accounted for. I opened the front door, hugging a squirming Ben under my arm, and rescued the box from the path of a sprinkler. I thought perhaps the box contained something important, because all important deliveries to our house end up in the path of a sprinkler head. The box was, in fact, an important delivery—the advanced reader copies of BENT ROAD. As you can see in the picture below, in addition to announcing the box’s arrival, Ben helped me open it.

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