Ollie was never going to be a guard dog. He is not that sort of dog, one who protects his home, and is instinctively ready to sort out anyone who comes calling uninvited. He is a companion, and welcomes visitors excitedly, happy to have company to impress by showing them his toys. It was a very long time before we even heard him bark, and it came as a surprise when he did.
For over five years, his barking was restricted to an occasional ‘woof’ as the postman approached the house, or occasionally barking at motorcycles when he was in the car, as he doesn’t like the noise they make. He would be unlikely to put off a potential burglar anyway, as he would no doubt view them as a ‘guest’, and show them one of his stuffed toys, whilst wagging his stumpy tail.
Then something changed. Earlier this year, he started to bark noisily if anyone stood outside the front of the house, or walked slowly past, talking.
He would keep that up until one of us told him to stop. Then his attention changed to the back garden, and we suddenly heard him woofing loudly at things he could hear out there. He had to be called in, and told to be quiet. When we are sitting watching TV in the evening, and he is fast asleep on his rug, he might suddenly decide to spring up and bark noisily at a passing car, or the sound of a car door opening and closing. This was so unexpected, it usually made us jump.
In the last few months, something new has started to happen. Ollie is put to bed every night in the kitchen-diner. He has food and water there, and a very big and comfy dog bed to sleep on. We have done this since the day we got him, and he has never hesitated to happily jump onto his bed, and lie down. He slept through the night from a very young age, and would often take himself off to bed if he felt it was time to do so. Then one night this summer, we were disturbed by noisy and continuous barking, just after 3 am. At first, it didn’t occur to me that it was Ollie. But it soon became apparent that it was. So I got up and went into that room, to find him sitting up on his bed, barking in the direction of the back door that leads out to the garden.
I put on the outside light, and went out to check the garden and surrounding paths. I was concerned that if Ollie was making so much fuss, there might be the possibility of an intruder, even though that is highly unlikely, in a place like Beetley. Satisfied that nothing was amiss, I went back to bed. A few nights later, the same thing happened, just after 4 am. That time, I stroked Ollie, and spoke to him calmly, until he had settled down on his bed, and started to relax. It was possible that he had been disturbed by cats. A lot of our neighbours have cats, and they do like to roam around at night, apparently. There are other nocturnal animals that he may have heard, like hedgehogs, owls in the oak trees, and the possibility of foxes in the garden. Though I have yet to ever see a fox in Beetley, I am told they are around.
At 04:30 this morning, I was disturbed from a deep dream-filled sleep by barking that started as a series of low woofs, then developed into a full-on continuous racket. I had no choice but to get out of bed, and go to see what was happening. As usual, Ollie was sitting up on his bed, barking at the back door. A quick check (due to below-freezing temperatures) revealed nothing I could see. I calmed him down, and went back to bed. But I could’t get back to sleep, and silently cursed Ollie for ruining my night. At just after 8 am now, it already feels like a long day.
I have no idea why he has suddenly decided to become a guard dog.