It Hardly Matters

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Christmas morning at my parents' place is a time that my family and I look forward to each year. We get up early, make a pot of coffee, crank up the old school Christmas tunes (The Salsoul Orchestra's Christmas Jollies is a fave), and start winding our way through our stocking gifts, which takes us about 2 hours. We, being a tad masochistic, open each present one by one, starting usually with my sister, who selects a gift at random, opens it, then tries to guess which of the other four of us bought it for her. The guilty party raises their hand and thank yous are thrown around. So, for us, opening a case of peppermints is a major event than can take up to 5 minutes. We each buy the others 5 stocking gifts, so we each have 20 gifts in our stockings. So that's how we get to 2 hours. It's bliss. Except this year.

My parents have two dogs. The elder (Princess) was adopted a couple of years ago (hence the silly name), and her nickname is "Boca Grande" because she is a bit of a barker. I have an unnatural love for this little fluffball, to the point that she can do no wrong in my eyes. So she barks--so what? The younger dog is named after a morning television personality (fine, it's Regis), is super cute (nickname "Poco Cabeza"--the Spanish isn't quite right, but you get the idea), but, for a little dog, is quite aggressive with anyone that is not in our immediate family. He could be perched in your arms licking your fingers one second and snarling the next. Usually on Christmas, these pups chill out and play with their new toys, beg for crumbs from our danishes, and sleep. They might bark a little here and there, perhaps at a squirrel scurrying atop the neighbors' fence. But this year, the squirrel went unnoticed. This year, we had a special guest: my sister and brother-in-law's dog.

Don't get me wrong, Tori is a sweetheart. She is an American Bull Terrier who loves people and gigantic bones. She was invited to Christmas morning because she was going to my sister's in-laws' place, and they didn't want to have to drive back to get the dog after the Christmas morning festivites. Which, in theory, was a practical idea. It's important to note here that both Tori and Regis were diagnosed by a dog trainer to be aggressive toward other dogs. So, it was decided that Tori would spend Christmas downstairs while the humans and two small dogs would open gifts upstairs. Let the fun begin!

A dog's bark is never a soothing sound. But most bigger dogs' barks have a lower timbre and don't pierce through brainmatter like those of small dogs. So when Tori started barking downstairs (after being snuck in through the porch while we distracted the two fluffs with treats), it wasn't so bad. When Boca and Poco went batshit crazy, however, it was. They charged the basement door. They shook. And they started shrieking at a volume I had never experienced from anything other than a screeching 6 train or guitar amp feedback in a 250-square-foot practice space. This cacophony propelled Tori to howl and bark right back. In a flurry of wrapping paper and glittery ribbons, my parents leapt from their easy chairs and grabbed the now-rabid dogs away from the door, avoiding bared teeth as they scooped them up and brought them to the kitchen. The barking continued. Leashes were affixed to collars, Tori was given a calming peanut butter treat, and my parents each took a small dog, returned to their chairs, and we tried to resume our normal routine.

For 2 hours, the dogs barked. My eyes watered, they barked so loudly. For 2 hours, Boca and Poco sat quivering in my parents' laps, trying everything they could think of to escape and charge the basement door again. I sat on the couch, fingers in ears, waiting for my brother-in-law to open the socks I gave him. When he did, I raised my elbow so he would know they were from me. I couldn't even hear him say thank you.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


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