The Daily Barkathon

September 8, 2019

The first indication that they’ve arrived is the dogs barking. In the photo below, you might just see my neighbour’s dog in the gate, his paws up between the bars as he yelps. He is often bored, so barking at horses and cows is a diversion for him. Shortly after, a couple of my dogs will be at it –the pair who most prefer to be outside – plus three or four of the dogs of families living on this laneway.

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A photo taken by leaning dangerously out of my living-room window.

They all make more noise than they would if a pack of dogs from the main part of the village had come in for a rumble. Big ruminants are a scandal to the canine world, apparently. There’s no mistaking, therefore, that cows or horses have arrived outside.

The laneway is only half built-up, and on the side opposite to where I live, there’s still a meadow. This offers grazing, but so does the central reservation of the lane, and its fringes. We’re still getting the occasional rainshower, so all this is green and lush right now.

I’ve never been able to understand how the farmers keep track of their animals. Theoretically, they could wander miles, up into the hills or off to a village miles away. Horses are still branded, so they can be identified, but there must be arguments over the cows.

And, occasionally, an out-of-town driver doesn’t realise a large animal could emerge onto the road at any moment, and present a costly compensation case when it’s hit at speed. You don’t want to run down someone’s horse or cow, believe me. Somebody will always know someone who knows the real owner.

So somehow they do work it out.

Most days, mothers, calves or foals come meandering into our cul-de-sac for a meal, seemingly ignoring the dogs’ racket. Sometimes, a dog gets nippy, and gets a hoof in the face. More rarely, a cow or bull lowers its head and threatens the dog with a horn. I’ve not seen a dog killed or injured in such an encounter, but it must happen.

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A foal just a few days old, with its mother, at the entrance of our laneway.

Meantime, the livestock are cheering to look at. They keep the village’s agricultural heritage intact, and they’re often beautiful animals as well.

So I’m glad the dogs start a barkathon when they come by. It reminds me to stop and look out.


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