We live out in the country, surrounded by thick woods. We have domestic animals
on our place, including: our two horses, a bunch of chickens, some noisy but
amusing ducks, a couple of turtles, some guppies, too many cats, and one watchdog – ‘Shae’. We keep the horses for pleasure. Carol likes the chickens, but they also provide great eggs (we can hardly eat the tasteless store-bought eggs anymore). Carol likes the cats, and I tolerate them because they keep snakes and rodents away from the house, chicken pen, and horse barn. And then there is Shae, our dog. Certainly the kids love her just to play with, but I think her most important function is that of a watchdog. In fact, that is what Carol got her for while I was in Iraq.
Now Shae is a beautiful dog, but she really isn’t very smart. She often barks at anything that moves, including us (she is SO ashamed when she realizes she has been barking at her friends!). Other times she will bark at unseen things out in the woods. Sometimes she barks at our cats (her favorite play toys). This can, of course, get really annoying, especially at three o’clock in the morning. If I haven’t had much sleep I can get more than just a little surly at that time of the night, especially if I can see nothing wrong and Shae is just wagging her tail at me and wanting attention when I come out to investigate. After this has happened a few times in a row I am sorely tempted to beat her into a pulp! But I don’t. You see, I have found that most of the time she has good reason to bark. Sometimes she is just keeping the coyotes notified to stay away from our place, other times she is letting us know that our neighbor’s stud horse ‘Cowboy’ has broken out and has come courting our mares. She has let us know that there is an animal down at the chicken house raiding our hens and eggs. She lets us know when our own horses get out and get into the cat food bin. She will tell us that there is a possum rooting around in Carol’s garden. And again, many times I have absolutely no earthly idea WHAT she is barking at.
I have noticed that she barks differently depending on the threat. Sometimes, though I never find out what is out there, I know that she is alerting us to a very real threat out in the surrounding darkness. I have seen her relax and be appreciative when I come out and yell at the woods or fire off a couple of rounds to frighten off whatever is out there, for she gets frightened, too. But I know she is loyal. She is loyal to the point that even if I spank her or yell at her for making noise or stupid mistakes she will STILL bark at threats to keep us safe. I know she is frightened by things out there, but I also know she’ll throw herself into the jaws of that threat to protect us.
So I don’t beat her, even when she is barking at nothing. Even when she doesn’t recognize me and runs at me in the dark, barking and growling. She is protecting my family the best she can. So I must overlook the mistakes, and listen carefully when the tone in her warning changes to "urgent!".
Personally I hate the sound of a barking dog, but I recognize that it is necessary. Ironically I find myself being the watchdog. I didn’t ask for the assignment – it is just what God has given me to do. I see or hear things that are threats and I let those around me know. Sometimes I am being foolish and am barking at nothing, as I’m not all that smart. Sometimes I am not even sure what it is that I’m barking at. Sometimes I mistake friends for enemy and bark at them, only to regret it later. But often enough I see things out there in the dark that you may have not seen. And sometimes I know that that thing is a threat to you. And, being loyal, I’ll bark hard until I get your attention. Even if you beat me.