Our Ukrainian neighbor’s dog weighs about six pounds, but if you knew him, you’d know why they call him Spike.
Spike hates everybody who doesn’t live in his house. He hates our dog Charlie. He hates my wife. He hates my daughter.
He definitely hates me. In the seven years we’ve lived here, Spike has had a clear shot at me only once. He charged down the gangway and bit me square on the shin, drawing blood. (That might have been revenge for the times I’ve surreptitiously tried to quiet his incessant barking with a little squirt from the hose.)
Spike barks all the time he is outside, at pretty much everyone except his owner, Maria. If no people are outside, he barks at the picnic table, or at the garage. Sometimes when he’s inside, he barks at the outdoors in general.
The bark is the same every time. It begins with a little growl and then graduates into a raspy, several-bark blast. Spike: We get it.
“He’s just mean,” Maria points out. “He’s her baby,” Maria’s daughter Kristina says. Maria calls Spike “Spikey.” We love Maria, who accepted us warmly into the Ukrainian Village neighborhood, even over Spike’s strenuous objections. And Spike has to go out sometimes, so what are you going to do?
And anyway, Spike is about 28 years old.
Occasionally when I am trying to write or on a business call and Spike is barking senselessly at a fence post for minutes on end, I will yell out the window, “Spikey!”
Which is my fondly passive-aggressive suggestion to Maria that I would love it if she would take Spike inside. “Spikey-a!” she yells, her Ukrainian accent adding an extra syllable that always charms me. This stops Spike from barking for exactly two seconds. After which sometimes Maria takes him inside, sometimes she doesn’t. And honestly, it’s okay either way; like Spike, I suppose, I feel better just for having barked.
The other day my wife tried to explain why Spikey barks all the time—sometimes, even out the window.
“He’s blind,” she said.
He can’t see anything, so he barks at everything. We’re familiar with the phenomenon.
The other day I told Kristina not to worry about Spikey’s barking. Over the barking, I yelled, “I think it’s all about the election! This will all be cleared up in November!”
And how we laughed at that.