My name is Clayton Dean, and I have a problem: a barking problem that likes to devour socks (ever wonder where that one sock went?), pillows and randomly left out magazines. I have a dog. Truth be told he’s really more of a cross between a needy porcupine and a hungry bovine but without the table manners. His name is Trouble. No really. I’ll say that again: his name is Trouble. Over the coming months I’ll continue to recap his adventures in this column: The Trouble with Trouble.
Living in Northern Virginia, we’re blessed with a backyard that backs up to heavily wooded parkland. The park is a pastoral scene with big oak trees lining the banks of a creek that runs down to the Potomac. The park attracts lots of joggers, cyclists and various woodland animals, especially deer. Lots and lots of deer. They walk around like a bunch teenagers at the mall, trying to look disinterested while simultaneously acting like they own the place. And Trouble is extremely naïve when it comes to understanding which of his behaviors people, or beasts, find enchanting. So if Trouble sees them, he starts what can only be charitably described as a symphony of noise: low growling leading to higher pitched whining and rising to a crescendo of incessant barks. While I’ve always hoped that Trouble’s presence would frighten the deer off, they seem to understand that he is safely ensconced inside our house and that his noisy squeals are nothing but hollow doggy “bark-adocio.”
This pattern continued for months. He sat by the window whining to himself every time he saw deer. I suspect that he imagined himself out in the woods, running with the herd like a doggie Rudolph leading the other deer in frolic-y deer games. One evening as I was letting him out, Trouble sensed his opportunity and bolted from my grasp. It was as if he’d planned this escape for years and had lulled me into a false sense of security much like Andy Dufresne did to the warden at Shawshank. But Trouble’s escape wasn’t as refined as Andy’s. He looked ridiculous, with his tongue flopping and long ears akimbo, as he darted across the backyard, building up speed. As he barreled down the hill toward the deer, their reaction was similar to “Game of Thrones” characters when they’re invited to a wedding. They scattered, but Trouble got close to one who reared and pawed at the air.
This stopped Trouble dead in his tracks. I was watching from atop my hill, hoping the last deer would bolt like the rest of his brethren and not batter Trouble senseless with his cloven hooves. But no. Instead the deer kind of bent over Trouble and started … sniffing. And Trouble reciprocated. He started sniffing around the deer, and then they sort of pranced around each other. Finally these two idiots, who should have been mortal enemies, started running around each other in circles, as if they were playing. Needless to say, it took some considerable doing to get Trouble back into the house and away from his new friend.
Even worse, now when the deer are in the backyard, Trouble’s once slightly annoying whimpers have turned into ear-splitting pleas. And the deer? The deer seem to know that the yard is a safe place. We have more deer than ever, all seeking to play with Trouble and confidently eating most of the foliage on my property while they wait for him to escape once again.