When Kali first came to the U.S. from Taiwan she had a bit of an aversion to other dogs. Our regular walks took us on a trail along a creek that paralleled a nearby golf course. I quickly found that Kali grew anxious when we came across other dogs. As our steps brought us closer to them Kali would start barking. “Ruuuf, ruff!” Not aggressively but in a way that said, “hey – don’t come near me, I’m not comfortable around other dogs”. Over time we worked on this and she became more confident and could eventually pass by other dogs along our walks without much drama. That was over seven years ago.
Our home in the foothills sits up on a hill and although we are well off the road, the road is visible from our large wrap around deck. If any animals pass below on the road, (or – gasp – any of our neighbors have the audacity to walk their dogs down past our home), Kloe will sound the alarm and Koda will quickly chime in. Kloe’s bark is low and deep. She uses all 75 pounds of her body and big chest when she vocalizes. I would characterize it as a WOOF! “Wahooof, waahooof, wahooof”, followed by a low growl and then more woofs! Although Koda’s body size, shape, and weight (65 pounds) would suggest a lower vocalization it is actually quite high. “Bark bark bark bark, bark, bark” as it crescendos up and then back down in pitch. Koda looks at Kloe for reinforcement and to ask, “what are we barking at?”, as they both run down to the yard to see if they can get a closer look.
Although Kali was never too interested when her sister’s sounded the alarm she would get up (usually from a nap in the warm sun) look around, and add her two cents (barely!). Kali’s bark, especially in her senior years, turned into a bit of a “Yip”. As she was woken up by Kloe’s WOOFs and Koda’s bark-bark-bark Kali would seem a bit confused and offer a brief “Yip” or two. “Yip? Yip?” she would say as her sisters ran off to the yard below. By the time they returned Kali had usually returned to her spot in the sun and was once again fast asleep. It’s easy to sleep, even during Red Alerts, when one’s two younger sisters are on patrol!
About a year or so ago I realized I hadn’t heard Kali bark for many months or maybe even longer. For a while I used to be able to get her to vocalize before I began preparing meals for her and her sisters. As it got closer to meal time Kali would find a spot somewhere between where I was sitting and where her food was stored. She would fix a sustained stare on me as she tried to will me to my feet and over to the food bowls. When she finally wore me down I would get up and tease her a bit by telling her she had to “speak” for her food. I would put my fingers and thumb together like a puppet, and say, “Ruff, ruff!”, in a high pitch. Kali would respond, “yip, yip”, and begin dancing and prancing around the room and looking towards the food bowls and then back to me.
At some point Kali stopped vocalizing in any manner at all. I don’t remember exactly when. But she was always a good listener and never much of a talker. Other than her early time with me when we walked along the creek trail Kali was never a dog of many “words”. I can’t recall a time I ever heard her growl. If she chased birds or squirrels, which she did on occasion, she did it in silence. Before we had fencing up in the back of the house she once took off after a black tail deer. She ran after it is silence, quickly gave up, and returned to me.
Kali has been gone now for three months. I wish I could say I miss the sound of her barking but she didn’t bark much so how could I? But I do so miss her silent presence. I miss my therapy sessions with her when I would talk and she would listen. And yes I even, and perhaps mostly, miss that laser snake-eyed stare 30 minutes before dinner-time as she laid somewhere between me and the food bowls and willed me to my feet to feed her.