Saturday, August 7, 2010


Another tradition that I first became aware of in my first visit back to NC after moving to NJ can simply be described as ‘Front’ in which the dogs demanded that we let them out front to play even though we had a nice big fenced in yard for them to play in out in the back. This isn’t to say that they never went in the front yard when I was living in Raleigh. As a matter of fact, we often went to the front yard such as to let Abby and the others chase the squirrels. On discovering how much Abby loved chasing squirrels, I kept the bird feeders around the yard filled with bird seed which lured the squirrels to these areas. Abby came close to some squirrels once or twice but she never killed one or even hurt one but possibly scared the crap out of a few. Andy did catch up with a few squirrels but he truly didn’t know what he was doing thinking it was a game and let the little rascals off the hook as they scampered into the nearby wooded area. Father has caught and ate squirrels before but on these events when I would open the door and let Abby initiate the chase; Father would tag along to be with the group and would not be in ‘hunting mode.’ Indeed, Father would be chasing the other dogs rather than the squirrels. Poor Father could be clueless and confused at times, but the guy was having a wonderful time and just glad to be alive.

When I lived in Raleigh, we would go out front 3 or 4 times a week and but I was the one who would initiate the trips to the front yard. Often precipitating an excursion out front was a squirrel sighting at a bird feeder out there. I would agitate Abby by repeating in a shrill voice ‘See that squirrel, Baby Girl? Get it Baby Girl.’ After saying this a few times, Abby would be chomping at the bit and run to the door and wait for me to let her out. The other dogs would themselves be revved up because of Abby’s state of anxiousness. Once I had them whipped into frenzy, I would quickly open the door and watch them burst over the threshold like they were horses coming out of the gate at Churchill Downs. Off they would go to the bird feeder with the squirrel perched on top which had a couple of choices. First, it could climb high in the tree and wait it out. It could also climb up the tree, panic, jump down and scurry into the woods. Or the squirrel could immediately jump off the bird feeder and make a run for it into the woods. Whichever decision the squirrel made, Abby and the others were assured to be entertained and have fun. I must emphasize that Abby or the other dogs never caught the squirrels when these games were played. Because this play fought Abby’s boredom and helped her get some exercise, I encouraged these games.

However, at some point around the time I moved to NJ, the dogs themselves would demand to go out front. How does a dog demand to go out front? As noted before, Abby knew how to ask to be let outside. However when we would go to the side door leading to the backyard, the dogs would walk past that door and walk a few feet through the foyer to the front door. There they would stand and look up at us like ‘Open it.’ Even if I wanted them to go in the backyard and had the side door open, they refused to budge from the front door area. I would then ask them ‘Do you want to go out front?’ They responded by moving their feet in a quick manner fidgeting around, breathing hard and panting. I would open the door and out they went.

What I couldn’t understand about the babies is what was so great about the front yard in comparison to the back. Like I mentioned earlier, even if I opened the door to the backyard, once they got a notion to go out front, they refused to go in the backyard. The backyard was almost an acre of fenced in fun with a pool, hills trees and a bird feeder of its own. All the things they could do out front could be done in the back, squirrels included. However in the dwindling hours of the afternoon was when Abby would start her campaign for us to let her out front. The other dogs joined in for the fun. It was almost as if Abby could sense the day’s drawing to a close which prompted her to demand we go out front. When the sun lowered to a certain angle in the den where my mom spent most of her waking hours, the light shining in Abby’s eyes would be like a beacon luring her to go out front and play.

Chasing squirrels may have been the event starting this tradition, but later the dogs like going out front for the sake of going out front. It was a change of venue compared to the backyard, I suppose. There were most likely different smells and definitely different sites out there keeping the dogs interested in the front yard. I never had to worry about them running into the street. It never happened; not even once or at least after the ‘out front tradition’ started. Abby didn’t go to the street because of a spanking she received when she ran to the road when she was young. She learned her lesson well. Then there was the matter of Andy. He followed Abby around so if she didn’t go somewhere, then he wouldn’t go. Father wouldn’t run into the street either even though he had free run of the neighborhood. He loved hanging around us and didn’t want to miss out by gallivanting around the neighborhood.

There was a quirk about going out front. The babies demanded that someone escort them in the yard and supervise them while they were out there. Since I trusted them, sometimes I went inside once in a while such as to answer the phone or use the bathroom. Regardless, upon discovering the absence of their owners the babies would be in a small panic with looks of consternation on their faces that read ‘Where did he/she go?’ They would trot inside looking for us worried that we may no longer be there for them. For some reason, they could or would not play out front unless one of their owners was out there with them. When they found us, they would run back to the front door and give us a look that said ‘Get out.’

So, on that weekend, the first one when I came back from NJ for a visit is when I became aware of the new tradition of going out front in which the dogs demanded to go there and would no longer wait for me or my mom to ask them. I was in the den, the sun shone on Abby’s face from the late afternoon sun and Abby started barking and bouncing up and down while looking at my mom. I asked my mom what they wanted, and she said they wanted to go out front. My mom asked them ‘front?’ and this seem to hit the sweet spot for them as they dashed down the steps from the den into the foyer and to the front door. This seemed to satisfy and pacify them at the same time. Even if a squirrel wasn’t in the front yard, there was plenty enough for them to do out there to keep them entertained and busy. This tradition of going out front continues to this day despite the fact that Andy’s squirrel chasing days are long behind him.

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