This is our boy Jones:
This is Mum and Dad’s boy Jock (his ears have always done that):
Jock and Jones are good mates.
Would you believe me if I told you they speak to one another? Well they do. It’s true, and I have a story for you to prove it.
Mum and Dad’s place is about 1/2 kilometer up the hill from ours. It’s close enough to be able to hear Jock barking. Jones definitely hears him, every time, without fail.
Usually when Jones hears Jock start up, he runs out onto our driveway and barks his response. I always think they’re saying hello to one another, you know, just letting one another know that they’re around. Under these circumstances, Jones has a pleasant bark which sounds something like this: “ror, ror, ror, ror”. With the occasional “rorrrrrrrr” thrown in for good measure. At which point he throws his head back, nose to the sky and it sounds half way between a bark and a howl. Like in the picture below.
As with any dog, Jones has a few different barks, depending on the occasion. This is helpful because I know the second there is an unwanted intruder near the house (for example, a snake or a large goanna), simply by Jones’ ‘Get the heck out of here’ fierce bark. I can also tell when something’s simply out of order by his ‘Who are you and what are you doing there?’ bark which he uses if, for example, the horses are put into the paddock opposite our front gate. He’ll spy the over-sized beasts (as he sees them) and wants to know what’s going on. He uses the same bark if a wheel-barrow is somewhere it shouldn’t be.
He doesn’t bark when friends and guests arrive (unless they have a dog in their car), rather he just tries to squeeze out the gate to excitedly say hello, run some happy circles (if they’re good friends), and / or jump in their car (regardless of who they are and how well he knows them). When he’s really excited about visitors, he runs so fast I find it hard to photograph him.
Anyway, I digress. The other day, I let Jones out of the garden gate and in response to Jock’s barking, Jones took off like Usain Bolt out of the starting blocks and tore up the hill as fast as his little legs could carry him – quite unexpectedly. I say unexpectedly as he’d never done that before. I hadn’t picked up on the urgency in Jock’s call, but Jones knew he was needed, and he was needed NOW. He was up the hill before you could say: “Jones, you get back ‘ere!”
Next thing, the phone rings. It’s Dad. Could we come up quickly and help him. Jock’s got a goanna cornered on the verandah. Now, in anyone’s language a gonna cornered on a verandah is not a good thing. Hubs and I jumped into the ute and headed up the hill to help out.
Jones had been there for some minutes by this stage and he was running frantically up and down one length of Mum and Dad’s house fence, trying to get in, dancing, prancing, bouncing, changing directions. Every single fibre of his small body was alert and twitching.
Jock was tense and angry, barking loudly at this poor, frightened goanna. The goanna, trapped under a cane chair, trying desperately to protect himself, was hissing loudly and lashing out if Jock got too close. The photo is not great, but given the situation there was no time to ask the goanna to pose for the camera. Check out those claws. Nasty.
We could hear Jock’s loud protestations, deep, aggressive and monosyllabic. On the other hand here’s what Jones heard:
“IT’S A GOANNA, IT’S A GOANNA! HELP ME! I NEED BACK-UP! IT’S A GOANNA! HE’S ON MY VERANDAH! IT’S A GOANNA! HE’S BIG, HE’S BLOODY BIG! IT’S A GOANNA! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? HEEELP ME!!!”
And it’s exactly what Jones’d heard all the way from down at our place. Minus the “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” part.
Now Jones’ barking had gone into over-drive, reached fever-pitch. All we could hear was his frenzied, agitated yelp, but Jock heard this:
“LET ME AT HIM! LET ME AT HIM! LET ME AT HIM! I’LL TAKE HIM! I’LL TAKE HIM! C’MON, LET ME AT HIM!! I SAID,
This, right here, is also confirmation that Jack Russells are large dogs stuck inside little dogs’ bodies. Or that’s what they feel is their sad and unfair affliction. Jones, I’m convinced thinks he’s the size of a Rottweiler. They have no real grasp on their actual size. If Jones had gone in there, well, I don’t like to think about it. The claws on that creature could have ripped Jones to shreds with one deft swipe. So I put Jones in the ute. Much to his disgust. In my arms, thinking of only one thing, he writhed and wriggled and squirmed with such determination I nearly dropped him.
Hubs climbed up onto the cane chair from behind and lowered a towel down to shield the goanna while Dad and I grabbed Jock. We put him inside, leaving the goanna to scurry out from under the chair and head straight for the nearest gum tree. Up he went, all 6 scaly feet of him.
Relieved, we returned home with Jones, who took quite some time to calm down.
So you see, the thing is, dogs can communicate very clearly with one another. We just think they bark, but they’re actually communicating very specific pieces of information to one another. Do you remember in the movie 101 Dalmatians when the bush telegraph of dogs sends the message up the line that the dalmatian puppies have been dog-napped? Well, it’s not too far from the truth.
Next time all the dogs in our valley start barking to one another, I’ll wonder what’s actually going on. Because you can bet it will be something worth barking home about.