“I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.”—Bill Murray
Last Tuesday, I was looking forward to having the house to myself for a while. There are no problems, no arguments, no upsets at home. I was, however, looking forward to being alone.
For the last two years, I have been renting a room in my brother’s house. It can be a little hectic when everyone is home in the evening. My brother, sister-in-law, nephew, one cat, and three dogs make this house an extremely loud and busy home. Though overall I enjoy the peaceful chaos, it can sometimes overwhelm me. I had lived completely alone for over twenty-five years before moving in with my energetic family; it has been a bit of an adjustment for me. While it is surprising how well we all get along (well, except for the cat. I don’t think she likes having me in her house), I still was looking forward to having my own personal quiet time. So while my family attended a concert at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, I was going to stay joyfully alone. Well, I wasn’t completely by myself. The three dogs were going to be home with me. And the cat, well, she wasn’t going anywhere. She decided to spend her evening at home blissfully annoying me. But despite the cat’s dirty looks, I decided to just relax and veg out in front of the TV for a while. I wasn’t going to worry tonight about whether or not the cat liked me. Instead, I decided to luxuriate in the feeling of being happy and safe at home.
I made a bowl of popcorn and cuddled up on the couch with the dogs to watch America’s Got Talent. (The cat didn’t want to join us. She thinks that show is gauche. She only wants to watch PBS.) However, the dogs and I had no sooner settled down on the couch when I heard a loud knock on the front door. The noise surprised me and I jumped up from my seat. My family had just left for the concert about 20 minutes ago. Had they forgotten their tickets…and their keys? Why would they knock on the door of their own home? As I approached the door, the dogs were barking frantically. That didn’t upset or surprise me. Our three small dogs are incredibly hyperactive. A simple knock on the door can send them into a frenzy of barks, growls, and endless running around the living room. Now, all three dogs tripped all over themselves, and almost knocked me over, as we all quickly walked over to the front door. I carefully pulled back the curtain and looked out the long window at the top of the door.
No, it wasn’t my family suddenly returning home. Looking through the glass, I saw a young man with dark hair and a scruffy beard. He was dressed in a gray shirt and dark pants with a blue baseball cap pulled down over his long, dark hair. The man was standing at the bottom of the two steps that led up to our front porch. Before I could drop the curtain back into place and move away from the door, the man looked up at me and smiled.
Dang! It was too late now to pretend that no one was home.
“Shush, dogs,” I now shouted as I added my own shrill voice on top of the dogs’ shrieks and yelps as they ran around in circles. I stepped forward carefully as the dogs raced between and around my feet. “Okay, okay, cool it, dogs,” I stated as I pulled open the door. The dogs weren’t listening to me, though, as they once again surged forward like tiny tornadoes.
Even though we usually just let the dogs outside in our fenced-in back yard, I had no concern opening the front door with the dogs so closely around me. In the two years I have lived with the dogs, they have never tried to escape through the front door. I felt confident that they were safe and that they wouldn’t attempt to run off.
“Shhh, dogs,” I hissed at them again as I pulled open the front door. The man who had been waiting patiently outside began to talk even before he had my full attention. I was still trying to get the dogs under control. Over loud, sharp barks, I could hear the man’s deep voice saying, “Uh, yeah, we are right down the street right now at one of your neighbor’s homes. We’re spraying for roaches, tics, fleas, ya know. Since we are already in the neighborhood, let me come in and spray your house, too.”
“STOP, DOGS!” I shouted and then turned back to look at the man. “What?” I said at first. “Oh, no, no, thank you. SHUT UP, DOGS! Thank you really, but no. DOGS, GET BACK!”
And even though, I had already said no and I was obviously still struggling with our crazy dogs, the man refused to give up. “No, really,” he was saying, “we usually work on several homes when we are in the neighborhood. We can spray your home, too. No problem. Let me come in and take a look around.”
“DOGS, STOP!” I stressed again as I felt the animals moving around my legs, and then I suddenly looked back at the man. “Huh? What? No…no.. we’re good, thanks.”
“No, come on,” the man was saying, “no problem. Let me do the job for a good price.”
“I’m not the owner of the house,” I said as I turned my attention towards the man now. And then, “DOGS, C’MON ON! GET BACK! No, I’m not the owner of the house. Thanks but I can’t make that decision.”
But the man wouldn’t go away. How could he be so oblivious to the barking dogs? Sure the dogs were small but how could he possibly be deaf and blind to the chaos going on around us. “It’ll be fine,” he was saying, “Let me in. Come on….”
“No, I really don’t think…”
And then suddenly several things happened all at once…
The man now began to move. He placed one foot on the bottom step and started to walk forward towards the door. And just at that moment, I saw a streak of brown and white flying across the porch.
“Cowboy,” I called out to our tiny dachshund. Oh, my gosh, my head spun in terror. Oh, my God, Cowboy got out of the house! What if he ran away? What if I had lost my sister-in-law’s dog? I could just picture myself running up and down the neighborhood screaming, “Cowboy! Cowboy, come home!”
But that’s not what happened. As the man walked up the steps towards me, Cowboy, our brown and white speckled, 2 foot high, 20 inch long dachshund, had suddenly darted out the open front door and ran across the porch as I stood helplessly in the doorway. I was screaming, “Cowboy, Cowboy, come back” as the little dog charged at the man trying to enter our home! I was horrified. What if Cowboy bit the man? I certainly didn’t want the guy to get hurt.
“Okay, okay, okay,” the man now said as he backed down off the porch and quickly ran across the lawn. Cowboy continued to stand on the top step, barking and growling, until the man had started walking away from our house and down the street. Now, Cowboy turned and jumped back on the porch and entered the house again without my coaxing or begging him to come back home.
Once Cowboy was safely inside the house, I shut the door and made sure it was doubly locked. Except for the noise from the TV, it was now quiet inside our home. The dogs had finally calmed down and settled back into their favorite sleeping areas. They were curled up behind the large pillows of the couch. As I sat down slowly on the sofa, Cowboy now crawled over to me and laid his head on my lap. His deep brown eyes stared up into mine. Looking at the dog now, I suddenly understood.
“Oh, my gosh, Cowboy,” I sighed. “You saved us. You’re a hero. You took good care of all of us.”
Now I don’t know what the man’s true intentions were. Maybe he really did just want to spray our home. But the shirt he wore had no company insignia. He carried no equipment at all. Maybe this was a complete misunderstanding. I don’t know.
But I do know this: I had never before seeing Cowboy go out the front door when it was open…and, in the two years I have lived with my family, I have never ever seen Cowboy charge at any person before. “There was something wrong, wasn’t there, Cowboy?” I whispered to the dog. “You really didn’t like that man. And you protected us.” The man could have easily kicked this tiny dog and punted him like a football down the driveway without any great effort at all. And yet, Cowboy had been unafraid. He had been fearless in this strange situation. I was in awe of this tiny creature’s great courage.
Now I would never encourage or want our dogs to hurt anyone. But I couldn’t shake the strange feeling that Cowboy had prevented what could have potential been a bad situation. I trusted this usually sweet dog’s instincts over anything else.
I gathered Cowboy up on my lap now and cuddled him close. “Thank you, Cowboy, for protecting us,” I whispered to him.
I smiled then as all three dogs now settled down all around me as if they were my own personal bodyguards. And once again, I felt safe and happy at home.