Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

I have always been an urban walker. I prefer to live close to stores, so I don’t have to drive to get various basics of life. Walking to the grocery store two or three times a week to pick up a couple of bags of groceries is better than a once-a-week trip with a car.

When living in the town of High River, my walks often took me past a certain house that was encircled by a 1-meter, solid, white fence, built right next the sidewalk. Behind that fence lurked a 10-kg black dog. He would crouch low, wait for walkers to walk by, and then at just the right moment, he would jump up, put his head over the fence rail, barking and gnashing his teeth,

Like a comedian with a good punch line, this dog had impeccable timing. He could send a walker’s liver through the walker’s ears. The scare tactic was that good. But a half second earlier or later, the effect would have been lost. The dog deliberately honed his skill to a fine science.

The dog was much more bark than bite. Unlike most barking dogs, he had timing. He just enjoyed scaring people.

When I usually walked past the house with the dog, I was quite aware of the setup. The dog would try to scare me, but since I knew the scare was coming it was easy to prepare myself. In fact, if I had something to swing at him, I would use it. He was too fast to get my blow.

But everyone once in a while, I would be daydreaming and forgetting about that damn dog. Then I would be picking up bits of my liver from my ears again.

One day I was approaching the house and preparing myself for the dog. This time I heard some scratching behind the fence. It seemed the dog was digging a hole. He was more interested in that hole than scaring me.

A few more steps. Scratch, scratch, dig, dig. “He doesn’t hear me,” I thought.

A few more steps. Scratch, scratch, dig, dig. “Maybe I can scare the dog!”

Scratch, scratch, dig, dig. I slowed my walking down to be more silent. “I’m gonna get that son-of-a-bitch”.

Scratch, scratch, dig, dig. When I was a about a half a meter away, I lurched forward, thrust my head over the fence, and gave my best bark: “Bow-wow-wow-wow”.

I scared a little old Chinese grandmother to rolling on the ground! She had been planting flowers next to the fence.

The dog was sitting on the veranda, silently watching the whole thing. He had a big grin like he just won a great battle.

But the dog lost the war! The people in the house figured out the reason for my odd behavior, after giving grandma a near heart attack. Whenever the dog was in the front yard, he was on a leash. And the leash was short enough that he couldn’t hide behind the fence any more. He could still bark and he did, but he could no longer scare.

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