All Bark

My boy dog, Rufus, has a habit of barking at night. Sometimes he barks a little after his bedtime, which we've told him is 10pm. Sometimes he gets up a little early, and starts his barking around 4am. I say that makes him a highly-motivated self-starter, and a dang fine watchdog. What with the recent coming of the killer coyotes, the ongoing plague of trash-raiding possums and raccoons, and the occasional garage-raiding derelict, a city-dwelling family just can't get enough good watchdogging.

Sadly, one of my up-the-street neighbors disagrees. I know because he called our house the other night at 4:30am, to tell us that Rufus was barking. He reached wife Brenda, which was a lucky break for him. Brenda just went downstairs and worked some dog-calming magic on Rufus, rather than driving the family van through his front door, which is what I probably would've done.

Not that I'm hostile, but we're not even talking about a next-door neighbor. We're talking about a distant-by-city-standards neighbor, who made up his mind to wake a houseful of sleeping Jowerses, because Rufus barks at night. I should mention that Rufus is a hoarse Basset hound, surely no louder than a passing car. Where I live, we've got barking dogs, passing cars, and howling sirens all night, every night.

Maybe it's just me, but I can't hear the neighborhood dogs, or anything else, when I'm asleep. The main reason I go to sleep is so I won't have to hear things all day and all night. If I do hear things in the middle of the night, that means I'm already awake.

So, I'm investigating dog-calming devices. As it turns out, a man can fit his dogfriend with all manner of "bark collars." They're battery-powered units that sense the vibration when a dog barks. After the guilty animal barks a few times, the collar hits him with a little electroshock therapy. If he keeps barking, the correction gets progressively harsher. If the dog is just compulsive, and never stops barking no matter how many shocks he gets, the collar eventually gives up.

My only experience with a shock collar was when neighbor Paul had his incorrigible lab, Apollo, fitted with one. Last time I checked, Apollo fought off the shocks like Superman fought off Kryptonite attacks-he'd wince and groan, but he'd always prevail.

There's also a gas-attack bark collar. It sprays citronella in front of the dog's face when he barks. Best I can figure, it's supposed to turn the barks into sneezes and head-shaking. Two problems with the gas collar: It won't work below 25 degrees, and the dang citronella refills cost 14 bucks a pop.

Finally, there's the ultrasonic bark preventer. When the dog barks, it emits a high-pitched sound, which, don't you know, humans can't hear. I'm guessing it's the same high-pitched sound that comes out of those gizmos that are supposed to run off roaches, squirrels, mice, and any other multi-celled organism you don't want around your house. I know those things don't work, because every house I see with one is loaded with undesirable critters.

As I sorted my options, I came across a shock collar that's operated by remote control. I thought, Hmmm, I could just give the remote to the poor sleepless neighbor. But then I realized that anybody who'd call my house at 4:30 in the morning is way too mean and spiteful to get correction privileges on my boy dog.

While I had remote-control buzzers stuick in my head, I thought about a device that I wrote about last year-an electronic gizmo, made by Medtronics, and patented for the purpose of giving people orgasms. It works like this: A doctor implants a power pack under the user's skin, and runs a wire to a particular spot on his or her spine. The device, when triggered by remote control, induces a rip-roaring, toe-curling, glory-be-to-Jesus orgasm. The thing worked best on women. Heaven help me, that gave me visions of beleaguered mamas in the school hookup lines, getting their cell phones mixed up with their orgasm remotes, and suddenly shouting affirmations and fogging up the windows in their rocking Volvos.

It's been 17 months since the unit was announced, so I figure it might be ready for some testing in the general population. Wouldn't it be extra nice of me to get one for my cranky neighbor? I could rig the collar circuits so Rufus doesn't get shocked when he barks, but the neighbor gets an orgasm instead. Shoot, if Rufus barked long and hard enough, my cranky neighbor would surely roll over and get a good night's sleep.