The din of a kennel of barking dogs is unlike anything I have ever heard. It is a shrill, shrieking curtain of desperation; the sound washes over you as you step through the door and gains in crescendo as you walk down the aisle past each grated cell containing a dog. The dogs bark in hope, in boredom, in distress; they bark because it is the only way they can communicate their need to get out, out, out, let me out. Help help help. I'm in here, here, here. Dogs, it is said, live only in the present. Here at the shelter, their constant barking is the sound of the present.
Like all living creatures, dogs crave quiet. There are a couple of spots at the shelter put aside for that purpose. One is a trailer that sits out back, furnished with a rug, a couch and lamp, and dog toys scattered about. It is removed enough from the main building so you cannot hear the barking from the kennels. The trailer is supposed to resemble a mini living room; it reminds me of a movie set, or an IKEA display. For the dogs, the trailer is heaven.
One day I took Autumn to the trailer. I had brought a book to read. I sat down on the couch and opened my book and she jumped up and curled up next to me, her head on my lap. She closed her eyes and in less than a minute she was snoring softly. Autumn is not too interested in toys or food or running around; she wants affection, she craves love and touch. For Autumn, the noisy kennel is a version of hell. I turned the pages and heard the minutes tick by on my watch. I had only 15 minutes to spend with Autumn – there are so many other dogs needing attention -- and I dreaded having to wake her and take her back to her kennel. For the moment, there in the present, Autumn, one of the world's gentlest dogs, was at peace.