Long ago when my age had not yet even reached double digits, my family had this wonderful old cranky dog who couldn't really bark to save his life, well maybe not save the life of a young child drowning in the pond over at Miller's Farm the way Lassie could have, but yeah, you get the point. This is not to say that our poor dog couldn't make any noise, just certainly not one you would expect to come from the snout of a labrador. This is the result you get when your dad teaches your dog how to bark.

I cannot exactly remember a time when our dog didn't "bark," but I do remember to some extent the teaching process. Back in those early days of the 1980s, our house looked pretty ordinary and suburban middle class. And right by the plain front doors, we had a very small tile entryway. And there, on occasional summer nights, my dad would get down on all fours, call our dog over, and try to teach him to bark.

For as much as I revere my father, the man absolutely sucks at making animal sounds (which might explain why the sounds our dog used to make sounded much more like a dying animal than one announcing the arrival of the mail man). But there he would rest on his knees and hands, bellowing into the face of the dog and then trying to open the dog's mouth to make the canine understand how the whole business worked. As the lessons grew a little more sophisticated, I recall dad asking me to go outside and hit the doorbell every minute or so, and then everytime I did, immediately after the chiming a painful 30-something year-old man would bellow at the door in the hopes that his wonderful dog might learn something. And I guess he eventually did, though human ears should never have to endure such pitiful sounds again. However, the inability to bark really constituted that dog's only shortcoming, and I recall my poor dad's sorrow the day we figured out that someone had stolen our dog away. And at that age, I couldn't seem to understand why anyone would really want to steal a dog, and I guess to some extent I still don't understand that.

For some reason over the last few days I have continually thought about my dad teaching my dog to bark. Ridiculous stuff like that happens every day in my family's house and in those all over the country. Those little images that you retain in a moment that seem a little strange grow into stories with fond memories in the years that follow. But anyway, maybe it has something to do with the fact that all I do right now is try and keep myself focused, but I keep on thinking that my removing myself from my family for so long has effectively removed me from those dad-teaching-the-dog-to-bark moments that still go on, that living by myself means no collective stories and no laughs about how the things that I do make everyone laugh.

Just a thought. Go bark at your dog today if you have one.