COLUMNISTS

When the thunder rolls, dogs take cover

Justin Isherwood
While Justin Isherwood's dogs tolerate the sounds of loud engines, music and banjos...the loud report of thunder causes them to seek the shelter of his lap or safety indoors.

The relationship between dog and man has long intrigued evolutionists and naturalists, and historians, and humanists, and if anybody is left out from this list they never belonged to a dog. 

The question is, how did it happen a wild species paired so intently, so loyally to another species on a duality that borders on the divine. It is this particular mutual history that continues to be pushed back further in time. Some now believe the man/dog corporation having been around 20,000 years. Before the first village, the first field, the first ear of corn, our loyal companion creature was there with us. Or we with them as the case may be.

I was sitting on the porch one evening. My house has four porches following my belief in porches to the degree others believe in the Apostles Creed. Believing, as I do, that ordinary people can be improved by the simple installment of the device called a porch.  A place to ponder, to sit quietly, to watch the sky, converse with the moon, consider the birds. Prayer I think is a close approximate, meditation most certainly, not that I am a monastic type but to believe a porch makes even this possible.

As noted, I was sitting on the porch, it was raining with a certain bravado and crescendo that in itself is a pleasantry of the porch, and why I have four porches, owing that one of them is always to the leeward. Downwind of an honest downpour whether an act of God or grace or atmospheric gymnastics. A porch being a good place to behold all this. Rain being inherently fascinating to watch. A creatural delight. I suspect we have genetic markers dedicated in our species to watching rain, sometimes gratefully, sometimes not.

The dog was at my feet as I watched the rain, closely at my feet I should add, owing this rain came with the accessories of lightning and thunder. Seems my dogs don’t like thunder. Loud engines they tolerate, loud banjos, loud music (Note: loud banjos and loud music are two separate categories). 

As the storm progresses my dog may or may not remain at my feet, the option being to join me on the bench. A further option is to sit across my lap. Better yet to attempt to crawl inside my shirt.

That dogs don’t understand thunder as just an atmospheric phenomenon of rapidly expanded and contracted air molecules whose reciprocal action approaches or surpasses the speed of sound and hence the sonic power, none of which dogs understand. 

Dogs also don’t understand the risk/exposure ratio, that just because you hear thunder doesn’t mean the lightning was near enough to kill, least not outright. 

Dogs also don’t understand the risk/exposure ratio, that just because you hear thunder doesn’t mean the lightning was near enough to kill, least not outright.

Dogs also don’t understand the risk/exposure ratio, that just because you hear thunder doesn’t mean the lightning was near enough to kill, least not outright. To the consequence you can enjoy a rainy evening on the porch amid lightning and thunder, until that incident of the lightning and thunder occurring simultaneously combined with a sudden smell of fresh ozone. Some say oxygen three has no smell. I’m one who holds that O-three has a smell and it can be vividly characterized when the phenomenon is at close range.

The most salient reason why my dog and all our ancestral dogs came to dwell in the cave of humanity is because of the table scraps. Because the hunting was better when both the parties were involved, we only have to ask any duck hunter for proof of this. 

My theory is further advanced by the insipient mutual bond involved with petting (to hope my wife believes this, too).

Furthermore fire is nice, to the end result people-type animals have pretty neat burrows. Not to forget that average people pups are friendly to canines in general. To say again the table scraps aren’t bad. 

Yet to dwell on the nitty-gritty of the man/dog bond; when it thunders most people-type animals understand the risk/exposure ratio better than dogs and when the people animal goes inside it’s probably a good idea to tag along. And when they don’t, it’s probably OK to relax and enjoy the scene. 

All this as dogs have known for the last 20,000 years. The gimmick is to stay close to those who can do the math of the risk/exposure ratio better than you.

To acknowledge again the porch, a device as somewhat extends the risk/exposure ratio, though my wife doesn’t think the porch is the ratio of protection the same as I do. But you probably knew that already.

Justin Isherwood

Justin Isherwood of Plover is a fifth-generation farmer and the author of Book of Plough,Christmas Stones & The Story Chair, and Farm Kid: Tales of Growing Up in Rural America.