Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!

Author, Bob McMillan

Ever wonder what’s your dog’s take on Halloween? I’m pretty sure dogs don’t do holidays. They hit every day
full-throttle. Dogs don’t follow calendars. There’s a noticeable shortage of canine astronomers to track lunar cycles and seasons of the sun. Every day is literally a new thing to a dog, some hotter, some colder, but every single one full of startling surprises.

Startling like a little person in Wookie suit banging on your door one dark and windy night. Followed by Big
Bird. And then somebody in a bedsheet whose mom said a ghost is waaaay cooler than that $30 Darth Vader outfit from the megastore. Somebody in a bedsheet, muttering.

It’s too much to take in. Do you bark like mad to warn your clueless people that crazies are at the threshold? Do you skitter under the bed? Or do you wait until your owner sets that bowl of candy
down again and hope they’re addled enough for you to make your move? Maybe it
won’t be full of that sweet brown stuff that made you heave for hours last year.

In the McMillan house, you’d do all of the above ... if people still banged on your door on Oct. 31. We tell ourselves the kids on our block have all grown up. But I’m pretty sure the dogs played
their shaggy part, too. Sully, the beagle mix, barks at leaves. Wookies, freak birds
and walking sheets? It’s a full-blown bark-a-thon.

But I’m pretty sure Cuchulain was the one who ended Halloween at our manse. He’s gone now, and sorely missed, but in his heyday, he was the original long-legged beastie. Half Scottish deerhound,
half Irish wolfhound, all black and full of smarts and attitude. In the dark, all you could see were his teeth. About waist high because he was as big as a pony. Except ponies don’t rattle walls like thunder when they bark. And ponies don’t bite like a giant black hound.

When he hit middle age, Cuchulain decided he’d had quite enough of people running up to meet him and shoving their hands in his face. His idiot owner didn’t recognize his low growls were
warnings that he was ready to go Cujo. Not until Cuchulain did that thing with
his lip to show how very big his teeth really were. Which is when the idiot owner became a VERY cautious owner. And when Cuchulain’s meet and greets with strangers came to a screeching halt.

But Halloween is the night for hellhounds. Finn, our wolfhound, watched bright-eyed at the window because he’s always standing by to make new play pals. Gracie, our other deerhound, sounded
off and then retreated to the bedroom, grumbling. If we didn’t have enough
sense not to open the door, we were on our on. We had to make Sully stop to
breathe he barked so much. But nothing like Cuchulain, who shouldered Finn
aside, stuck his snout to the windowpane and rocked the night. Who knew zombies
and werewolves could U-turn so fast at the end of a driveway. Word got out.

Cuchulain’s bladder was the worry on Halloween. Could he hold it until all the little spooks were off the streets? Or, while the odd witch or pirate was still creeping about our yard, would he
stand cross-legged by the door, whimpering and grimacing? For a big dog, Cuchulain gave a surprisingly nuanced performance. Why he couldn’t use theatrics to ward off people instead of snapping at them we never knew. The motivation was the same: Keep your digits to yourself, bub.

So every Halloween, we made the Scary Bathroom Trip. Porch light blazing. Cuchulain on a short leash. Me, peering furiously into the shadows for spooks. The hellhound doing the happy dance by a

Halloween’s calmer now that our giant hound is gone to hound heaven. Except for Sully’s barking. This year I sat the little guy down and explained that the pounding on the door really isn’t a
threat. It’s for fun. He eyed the door, unconvinced. I’ve tried to tell him the
weird creatures out there are just kids in costume. Sully doesn’t get symbolism
or guising. Once I strayed into an explanation of Wookies and Darth Vader but
... Sully’s grasp of space mythology is pretty thin. He tried. Sully sat there,
wide-eyed, listening. Then I remembered he sleeps with his eyes open. A crunch
in the leaves outside and he was back at the door, telling the scary things to
go away.

Next year I’m telling him Zombie Dog’s at the door.

Bob McMillan is an editor and columnist with the Cookeville Herald-Citizen
newspaper and lives on a mountain with several giant hounds and wary cats.


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