Tails from the Bark Side by Brian Kilcommons, Sarah Wilson |, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Tails from the Bark Side

Tails from the Bark Side

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by Brian Kilcommons, Sarah Wilson

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America's premier dog trainers for the past 25 years—and authors of "Good Owners, Great Dogs"—present a heartwarming, humorous, and touching collection of true tales of remarkable canines. Illustrations throughout.


America's premier dog trainers for the past 25 years—and authors of "Good Owners, Great Dogs"—present a heartwarming, humorous, and touching collection of true tales of remarkable canines. Illustrations throughout.

Editorial Reviews

Pet owners are a literate breed, their eyes always alert for new proofs of canine virtues. This pouch full of pooch stories by Good Owners, Great Dogs coauthors Kilcommons and Wilson will more than please its target audience with its tales of rowdy Rottweilers and unpredictable poodles.

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Hachette Book Group
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5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)

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Tails from the Bark Side

By Sarah Wilson Brian Kilcommons

Warner Books

Copyright © 1997 Brian Kilcommonsand Sarah Wilson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-67614-4

Chapter One

Canine Comedians

Dropping the Ball (SARAH)

Jack Russell Terriers are characters-it doesn't matter whether they are male or female, young or old-they all have strong opinions about life and their place in it. Fourteen pound Tank was no exception. He loved a lot of things in life-"his" children, rawhides, chasing squirrels, anything that flew, a good long walk in the morning. But his obsession, his great and terrible love, was an old, ratty, orange tennis ball.

Mary and Richard had always thought this tennis ball mania endearing, until they started to renovate their home. As part of that remodeling, they added a forced-air heating system.

One day, upon returning from yet another trip to the hardware store, they heard Tank barking frantically upstairs. Something was wrong! Alarmed, they raced up to help him. There he stood, barking nonstop down a brand-new, as-yet-uncovered heating duct. Was he frightened of it? Was he imagining some terrier nightmare about large animals down dark holes? Picking him up, Richard soothed him. "There, there Tank. Calm down. That's just a heat duct, nothing to be scared of." Richard carried him downstairs, but Tank had other plans. He struggled free, then raced back to the duct and took up where hehad left off.

Under normal circumstances, Jack Russell barking is no easy thing to listen to-it is loud, can be high-pitched, and is usually rapid fire. Now, imagine it echoing down long metal ductwork and you can see the problem. Tank sounded like a canine machine gun that never needed reloading. He kept at it-ten minutes stretched to twenty. He showed no sign of letting up. A focused terrier is an astonishing thing.

Desperate, Mary and Richard decided to distract him with his favorite toy. But where was it? Where was his beloved tennis ball? Slowly, it dawned on them. The ball must have rolled down the open duct.

The only solution was to call in the heating professional. Yes, he would be glad to come out. It would be an emergency call, of course. Tank barked until the heating expert arrived. He barked while the man scrambled into the crawl space under their home, made his way to the lowest part of the ductwork, then cut it. Out rolled the grimy ball. The repairman closed up the opening before crawling back out to hand the offending ball and the hefty bill to Richard. But Richard didn't mind. The ball was back. All was well with his world.

"Poor Tanky," Richard commiserated, "you lost your favorite toy. But we rescued it. Here you go!" and he tossed the ball in to the air. Richard smiled as Tank caught it on the first bounce. Turning to Mary, Richard said with a grin, "He's happy now!" Tank bolted from the room. They heard canine toenails scrambling up wooden stairs. "Oh no." Richard groaned. "He wouldn't ..." Then the house reverberated with the sound of a soft orb bouncing down a long metal tract-whomp, whomp, whomp, whomp. A sound that was instantly obscured by Tank's gleeful barking.

Wanted: Gardeners (BRIAN)

The estate Murphy reigned over was built by Thomas Jefferson, who I am sure would have been impressed by the dog if he had met him. Encompassing over one hundred acres of the greenest Virginia countryside, the century-old plantings needed constant attention to stay at their most beautiful. The skills of many gardeners were required. A problem arose when Mrs. Roswell, the owner, could no longer find people willing to take on the work. Murphy was making hiring impossible.

Murphy, an unneutered male Rottweiler, was never what you would call a nice dog. Loyal to the bone to the few people he loved, he considered all other humans lesser forms of life. Being highly intelligent, he made up a game that quickly became his favorite. Here are the rules: Wait out of sight until gardener bends over, absorbed in his or her work. Proceeding slowly, with stealth, sneak up behind aforementioned human. Do not pant or make noise of any kind. Come close to gardener's rear end, inches if possible, ideally right where the legs meet the body. Inhale deeply. Bark as loudly as possible.

If all goes well, human will shoot forward into bush or leap upward in a most satisfying way. If he or she has a good sense of humor about it all, strut away, mouth open, tongue lolling, with an ear-to-ear Rottweiler grin. If human attempts to reprimand you, swell up to one and a half times your normal size, make direct eye contact, and growl so deeply that he or she feels it through their feet.

If intimidation is successful, human will freeze, blanch, and gasp in the most wonderful way. Maintain position for a minute or more, then slowly turn and stalk off. Hike leg on nearest vertical object. Scrape hind paws repeatedly after urination, ideally tossing bits of leaves and grass at the motionless human. If done properly, human will quit job.

As his owner worshiped the ground he walked on but had neither the temperament nor the interest in firmly managing his dog, Murphy pretty much did what he wanted. I did work with the head gardener, which gave him some influence over the dog, but I would never have called it control.

But things came to a head when the estate's small barn needed reshingling and two workmen, Tom and Jeremy, came to do the job. The barn stood, quaint and picturesque, off in a back glen. As the sun lifted slowly into the clear Virginia sky, Murphy discovered the interlopers up on his roof.

The young men had just hauled two bundles of shingles up to the roof, and Jeremy was starting down the ladder for a third bundle, when he noticed the black hulk asleep at the foot of the ladder. "Big dog," he muttered to himself. Murphy simply raised his basketball-like head and watched.

When Jeremy got within a few feet of the ground, Murphy's eyes narrowed. A deep rumbling could be heard. At first, the roofer thought that a distant train was making its way to some unknown destination. Then he realized from whence it actually came. Jeremy froze, foot extended toward earth. Murphy rose slowly, eyes locked on the intruder. As the workman cautiously started his ascent to safety, Murphy launched, lips pulled back, primitive noises erupting from his gut. Spurred by fear and adrenaline, Jeremy climbed to the roof nimbly as a schoolboy. There the two men stood, shaking, looking for escape. There was none. The black asphalt-shingled roof was their lifeboat and below Murphy circled the barn like a great white shark.

Out of everyone's earshot, the workmen's yells for help went unheard. Resigned, they sat down to develop a plan. Their first thought was to distract the dog. Tom went to the far side of the building and made noise by banging his hammer against the roof. Instantly, Murphy galloped over to check out the commotion. With the dog distracted, the faster of the two men, Jeremy, started down the ladder. In his haste, the metal ladder banged against the barn. Tom just had time to yell, "He's coming!" before Murphy arrived, barking like Cerberus guarding the gates of hell and leaping up against the ladder. Jeremy sprinted to safety.

Both men peered over the side at the massive creature. "Jesus." Tom said. "That was a little too close."

"No kidding." Jeremy replied. "Got any other bright ideas? Preferably something that wouldn't involve me being eaten?"

"Think we can scare him off? Maybe throw something at him?" his friend offered.

"Like what? You got an H-bomb in your pocket?" Jeremy shook his head. "We'll just have to wait him out." And with that he laid back on the roof, pulled his jacket over his face for some shade and pretended to sleep.

The sun heated the dark roof quickly. The men's T-shirts, saturated with sweat, stuck to their skin. Murphy, cool in the shade of the barn, planted himself at the bottom of the ladder and napped. He knew that the men would have to go past him to leave. They knew it, too.

All day they waited, stranded on that roof. Periodically they called out for help, but nobody heard them. Sometimes they talked, mostly about the six-pack of beer that sat heating up in their truck and the pack of cigarettes in the glove compartment. They both agreed, eventually, the dog would forget about them and leave. Neither had ever met Murphy.

As the sun slowly slipped across the horizon, the roofers renewed their bellowing. The farm manager, Ed, was leaving the horse barn when he heard a distant sound. He couldn't quite make it out. He hopped in his truck and rolled down his window so he could follow the noise. Down the hill, through the small grove, it seemed to be coming from the small barn.

Pulling in the drive, he immediately understood the situation. He opened the door of his Chevy and called the dog to him. Murphy hopped in, rubbing his massive head against his friend, inadvertently shoving him against the inside of the car door in his enthusiasm. Kept'em for you, boss! he seemed to say.

With Murphy safely locked in the truck, Tom and Jeremy climbed down, collected their things, got a day's wages each and left. The farm could keep the new shingles on the roof; neither man cared to go up and retrieve them.

Pick on Someone Your Own Size (BRIAN)

Being small is much more a problem of external perception than of internal reality, or so Bon Bon would tell you if he could. At 5 pounds, 0 ounces this Maltese Poodle mix's soul is a combination of kamikaze fighter, trapeze artist, and political dictator.

Boarded with a friend, Lara, who keeps a few client dogs in her home on occasion, Bon Bon takes all comers. As Lara told Bon Bon's owners, "If this dog was 65 pounds, you wouldn't be able to keep him."

But he isn't, so his owners think his antics are charming, rather than dangerous. Because of his size and potential vulnerability to unintended injury, Lara placed Bon Bon in the kitchen behind a wrought-iron gate. There he could safely watch everything going on.

Enter Flint, a large Shepherd-Collie cross. Bon Bon immediately barked his challenge. Flint, a true saint among dogs, ignored this onslaught.

Bon Bon took only a second to slip between the bars of the gate, which had held all manner of tiny dogs before him. A fluffy coat can make even small dogs appear larger than they are.

Bon Bon launched himself at Flint's face, spitting canine cuss words at the top of his voice. Flint simply raised his head and regarded Bon Bon with a bemused expression that seemed to say, "Kid, you've got chutzpah ... no brains but a lot of chutzpah."

Such benevolence further infuriated the tiny warrior. Determined to get the desired results, Bon Bon raced behind Flint. Leaping into the air, he caught Flint's tail and hung on. Once his four feet touched the ground, he threw everything he had into reverse. Tugging, growling fiercely, shaking his head back and forth, he defied Flint to ignore him. Eyes widened briefly in surprise, Flint strolled off, pulling Bon Bon behind like a miniature water skier.

Bon Bon met his match one day in a Cardigan Welsh Corgi named Watson. Having done his best to impress Watson and receiving the usual unsatisfactory response, Bon Bon lit out for his usual target. Reaching his goal, he scrambled to a stop. No tail. Cocking his head for a second, Bon Bon improvised and grabbed Watson's fluffy britches.

Watson spun around and with his right front paw gently pressed Bon Bon to the ground. Bon Bon struggled for a few seconds until Watson leaned in and growled softly. The effect was immediate. Bon Bon could not have been more still if he had died of surprise.

Satisfied, Watson slowly removed his paw, gazed upon the motionless Bon Bon for another second, then went off about his business. Bon Bon lay still. He rolled his eyes left, then right, scanning for the larger dog. Cautiously he raised his head. When he saw the coast was clear, he got up, shook himself off, and retreated to the kitchen.

Watson did his job well. To this day, if he even looks sideways at the little dog, Bon Bon falls over and plays dead until his lord and master moves away.

Not My Type (SARAH)

In the last shot of the day, a canine masseuse was to be filmed working her magic on Caras as he lay stretched out, half-asleep, on a red velvet couch. Great idea for a TV show about indulging one's canine companion in Manhattan.

Caras's job did not appear difficult-relax, close eyes, enjoy the moment. I set him up on the couch, a place he was more than happy to be. He plunked down, mouth open, eyes bright. What's next? he seemed to be saying. He was ready.

Enter Margot, a slender, longhaired woman in a long, floral-print cotton dress. She was the costar of the segment, a canine massage professional. Nervous, talking with the director about the scene, she ignored my suggestions about how to get acquainted with my dog. Plopping herself down on the couch next to Caras with no introduction, she put her hands on him immediately.

Caras's reaction to this was not much different from what yours might be if a stranger sat down in your space and placed his hands on you without introduction. Caras hopped right off, with a glance over his shoulder that roughly translated, Who the heck is that?

Now there is something you should know about Australian Shepherds. Once they form an opinion about someone, it is hard to change their minds. Impossible to change would be a more honest statement. My stomach tightened: I knew all the ramifications of what had just happened.

I asked Margot to get up for a minute to greet Caras formally. He stood politely as she offered a hand for him, but he would not sniff it. He would not look at her. Hopping back up on the couch at my command, he lay back down. I told him to stay. She sat back down. He rolled so his back faced her, burying his head into the corner of the cushions. I sighed. Just as I thought.

The director looked at me questioningly. Caras had been nothing but easy and reliable during the other shots the show required. I shrugged. "Why don't you do a little of your massage on him to relax him?" I suggested, in hopes that her skills might influence his opinion.

She placed her delicate hands on his shoulders and started to knead him as if he were a mass of very stiff dough. He squirmed. "He's sensitive," I said, though I wanted to say, You idiot! This is a dog, not a loaf a bread in the making. Gentle! Can't you see he doesn't like what you're doing?

"Okay," said the director. "Sarah, get Caras turned around. Margot, get ready." Once her hands were off his back, I used treats and sweet talk to get him in the right position. After a few moments of stroking, to relax him, I gave him a no-nonsense "Stay," backing away just out of camera range.

Margot placed her hands on him again. As she spoke her lines, her nervousness came through her hands. She massaged faster, harder. Caras looked at me. I put my hand up, signaling him firmly to stay. He sighed, then rolled on his side, wrapped his hind legs behind her, and pushed with all his might. If I have to stay, he clearly was thinking, you have to go!

Raking his hind feet across the small of her flimsy cotton-covered back, he pushed her again and again. Arching her back in an attempt to avoid this onslaught, she continued with her lines as best she could. Finally, as her squirming and his kicking reached a fevered pitch, the director yelled, "Cut!" Caras shot off the couch, diving under a small coffee table. Facing the wall, he stuck his furry butt out for all to see. His feelings about this whole process were clear.

Margot glared at me. "Make him stop!" she demanded. A slow smile spread across my face. "He'll stop when he's relaxed. Isn't getting a dog to relax kind of your department?" Turning to the director, I apologized. "There seems to be a ... problem." He nodded at this statement of the obvious.

"Suggestions?" he asked.

"Well, since Caras clearly isn't wild about this scene, why don't we do this-I'll sit in for Margot. Get the close-ups of the body work being done, using my hands. If I push my sleeves up, I'll have bare arms like hers. Then we'll do the interview with Margot sitting next to Caras but not working on him." This seemed worth trying.

With Margot out of sight in another room, Caras happily hopped back up on the couch. I worked on him gently, his eyes closing, his body relaxed in contentment. Once he was near sleep, Margot quietly took up her spot next to him. With her hands resting gently on his shoulders, the scene was shot.


Excerpted from Tails from the Bark Side by Sarah Wilson Brian Kilcommons Copyright ©1997 by Brian Kilcommonsand Sarah Wilson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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