I got my black and tan coonhound a bark collar for Christmas. It was either that, or a new home. For some reason, my new neighbors don’t like the sound of a hound dog baying all day long.
I know that because we went to a neighborhood holiday party last week and got to meet our new neighbors and more than one of them asked, “Is that your dog barking all day long?”
We figured our dogs would be OK on the five-acre parcel we bought, but it took one day for them to decide five acres aren’t nearly enough. Not with all the deer and other critters to chase down.
My coonhound, Bo, is a tracker. I don’t even want to know what he is capable of smelling all day long with that sniffer of his, but when he gets on a scent, he doesn’t get off until he’s run himself ragged.
We got Bo from a friend who persuaded me that he would grow up to be the best dog ever and that all he really needed was some space. We soon discovered why there aren’t a lot of coonhounds running around. Unless you hunt, or track escaped prisoners, a coonhound is not exactly a great family pet.
The lady at the pet store promised that the bark collar I bought for Bo was really quite harmless and that he’d probably stop barking after one or two good jolts. But I didn’t want to just wrap it around Bo’s neck without testing it myself. Do unto your dog as thou would have done unto you, as the sad dog commercials remind us on late-night television.
This is a good time to stop and think about that for one second, something I should have done before deciding to test a bark collar on myself. There was nothing in the instructions that recommended I put the bark collar to my throat before placing it on the dog. Just as there was nobody around to tell me I shouldn’t do the Polar Swim in Lake Tahoe in the middle of February, an event that introduced me to the effects of hypothermia. You don’t want to finish last in a polar swim.
I never said I was the sharpest knife in the drawer.
On the other hand, I determined that nothing operated by a tiny battery could possibly buckle my knees, or make me cry. So I decided to take the bark collar for a test drive.
My daughter decided it would be a good idea to video this test, just in case it killed me and they needed to sue the manufacturer. So, with the camera running, I flipped the switch on the bark collar and put it to my throat.
“Ruff!” I cried, trying to sound like a dog, but sounding more like a wounded mouse.
“Bark like you mean it,” my daughter demanded, like a director encouraging a stuntman to the edge of a 70-story-building roof.
“Ruff!’ I cried, louder than the previous attempt, but still nothing like my coonhound.
Still nothing from the $50 bark collar. I looked to make sure it was switched on and stuck it back on my Adam’s apple.
“Bark!!!” I cried, as loud as I could.
Nothing for a half a second and then all hell broke loose. The shock rocketed through my neck and straight to the back of my head. “Holy Mother of God!” I can be heard screaming on my daughter’s camera. “That one almost blew my arms off!”
I should have stopped there, but decided I’d give it one last try. Regaining my composure, I raised the bark collar to my neck again and barked. That one nearly brought tears, but within just two barks I was cured. The collar had done its job.
The next morning I decided it was Bo’s turn. As I wrapped the collar around his neck, I told him what I’d done the night before, assuring him it was all on video if he wanted proof.
“This is for your own good, Bo,” I said. “I love you, but if this whole move is going to work, you need to tone it down.”
We went outside on his leash, and Bo spotted a deer.
“Woof!” he cried, followed closely by a shriek. I could tell Bo had no idea what had happened, which is why he shrugged it off and barked again.
Bo was determined to bark through the volts running through his neck and broke free of the leash. I could hear three or four “bark/shrieks” before there was silence. Bo had figured it out, but decided to continue his pursuit, only this time with his mouth shut.
When I came home from work Bo was in the garage. The bark collar was gone, but Bo wasn’t taking any chances. The next morning I took Bo and his brother (a well-behaved Lab who only barks when there is a good reason) out to go potty and Bo went about his business bark-free.
I haven’t barked in several days, so it seems we may actually settle into our new neighborhood quite nicely. At least until the chickens come.
Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.