Bonnie Henry: Why dogs bark, or don't, and other great mysteries

2013-02-10T00:00:00Z Bonnie Henry: Why dogs bark, or don't, and other great mysteriesBonnie Henry Special to The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Some time back - OK, it was 20 years ago - a couple of researchers posited, as researchers are prone to do, that dogs can and do bark "at everything and nothing, anytime of the day or night."

That absolutely amazing revelation, repeated just recently in this very paper, came from researchers Mark Feinstein and Raymond Coppinger, who spent six years studying dogs and their barking. The conclusion: "It is repetitious, meaningless and functionless," as Feinstein told the Kansas City Star back in 1993.

Funny, I don't remember these guys lurking anywhere near my poodle back then, but our dog could have certainly served as Exhibit 1A in Coppinger and Feinstein's research findings.

Here was a dog who barked at birds, at the moon, at the lack of a moon, at a leaf in the pool, at the dishwasher, at the washing machine, and especially at the jingle-jangle of car keys. ("Uh oh, she's going somewhere without me.")

Please do not inundate me with heroic tales of how your dog's barking saved you from fire, drowning or burglars. When a kitchen fire broke out at our home, it was our daughter, home alone, who had to drag our dog out of the house, not the other way around.

Then there was the unexpected Christmas Eve dip in the pool while no one was home. Our dog survived. A relative's dog did not.

And when anyone came to the house our dog did not know - including one instance of a burglar - our brave canine defender's favorite tactic was to lie in the hallway and play dead. Old joke, poodle to burglar: "I'm telling."

The last of a succession of family pets, this dog made his home with us, and we with him, for more than a decade. Currently pet-free, we now enjoy a cavalcade of other people's dogs parading past our patio every morning and late afternoon. Most are the size of a small pot roast, leashed. Most do not bark. Some do. But thanks to the research of Coppinger and Feinstein, I no longer take it personally, or even deign to ask why.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other unanswered "whys" out there still begging for some sort answer from the scientific community. Among them:

Why can you never fold a fitted sheet back to its original contours?

Why does the hand pump on a bottle of lotion give out way before the lotion?

Why do you invariably wind up in the longest line at the checkout counter?

Why does no one take the first slice of bread in a loaf?

Why is no one in kindergarten named Gertrude or Norman?

Why is everyone in kindergarten named Isabella or Ethan?

Why does the pot boil over the minute you turn your back?

Why does it take a knife, two pairs of scissors and a blow torch to open the plastic dome over a new Barbie Doll?

Why does it always rain three days after you wash the car?

Why do husbands decide to tackle that long-standing drip under the kitchen sink just before company arrives?

Why does the color "Sedona" look so much different on the paint chip from the way it does on your living room wall?

Why do grocery stores insist on discontinuing your favorite items?

Why do fools fall in love?

Why do we still love dogs - bark and all?

Bonnie Henry's column runs every other Sunday. Contact her at bonniehenryaz@gmail.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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