Thursday, September 3, 2015

No, My Collie Doesn't Have A Cold

It’s called devocalization or ventriculocordectomy or vocal cordectomy –or, in plain English, de-barking. What happens is, as I understand it, a vet or vet tech sprays some “numbing medicine” down a dog’s throat to anesthetize the vocal cords, and then sticks a trocar or some other surgical instrument (or, nowadays, even a laser) down the dog’s throat, twists it around, and in so doing pretty much wrecks the dog’s vocal cords.

It doesn’t stop the dog from barking, of course; it just reduces the volume by quite a bit.

Sometimes, de-barking is done by court order, if a dog owner has so pissed off his neighbors by letting the dog bark all day and night that they turn to the courts to get relief. Sometimes, it’s done just because the dog’s owner wants it done. And, a number of dog show people just do it as a matter of course.

I think in most cases it’s cruel and shouldn’t be done.  Dogs bark for a reason. Some breeds bark more than others, but good training can minimize what humans perceive as unnecessary barking.

I’m writing this rant because again, in the past few weeks, I’ve had a number of questions from people who want to know why our “little girl” – Sunny – our purebred Blue Merle Collie pictured at the top of this post – has such a funny little bark. When she barks, it’s very low volume, and it sounds something like Jackie Gleason saying “hubba hubba hubba”.

At least that’s what my wife and I think it sounds like.

A few weeks ago we got a new route driver for one of the big national delivery services. I don’t want to give specifics in case his boss reads this and chews him out for “wasting time”. Since I’m self-employed and work at home, I’m usually around during the day when the delivery people are making their rounds. Anyway, when the new guy delivered some stuff, he said “does your dog have a cold?”

I knew right away he was talking about Sunny. One of her “jobs” is to alert me every time a TRUCK (she knows that word well) comes into the huge cul-de-sac that defines our secluded suburban neighborhood. During much of the day, when the weather is decent, Sunny and her older “sister”, Shadow, roam and patrol the vast expanses of our property, held in check by the fences we erected to keep them within the perimeter of what we call “The Morrissey Compound”.

Here are Shadow and Sunny (above), starting their daily patrol duties.

I explained to the delivery man that Sunny was, essentially, a “rescue” – we rescued her from her former life as a show dog. She won lots of awards, but her breeder/owners just didn’t think she represented “their look” all that well. Each breeder goes for a specific “look” for their dogs. So a few years ago when we came looking for a companion for our first purebred Collie, Shadow, the breeder said they had a really nice Blue Merle who actually had the same “father” as Shadow, and they were taking her off the show circuit and looking for a good home for her.

Because Sunny was a show dog, the breeder de-barked her. We didn’t know this until the day after we “rescued” Sunny and brought her home, and heard her bark for the very first time.

I explained to the delivery man that Sunny was de-barked, which is why she made that funny little sound he heard. (Shadow doesn’t bark at trucks or cars; she saves her “talking” for rabbits, squirrels, cats, and the other wildlife that appear from time to time around the Compound.) The delivery man was astounded when I explained to him what de-barking was. He thought maybe she had a cold or sore throat. He’d never heard of de-barking. He loves dogs. He was genuinely shocked. He wanted to know why anyone would do such a thing.

Now, every time this delivery man has a package for one of the seven homes that open onto our giant cul-de-sac, he comes over to the fence and plays with Sunny and Shadow for a few moments. They’ve come to know him, and wag their tails furiously as he approaches.

Collies were originally bred to be working dogs, to help Scottish ranchers herd their sheep. They were bred to run almost continuously during the workday, helping the rancher move the sheep from field to field. They’re extremely loyal and are pretty high on the “dog IQ chart”.


They’re also very gentle and loving when they’re not “on task”. Here’s Sunny (above) with our granddaughter. Sunny lets her bop her nose, pull her hair, and do all the wrong things that babies do with pets. Our granddaughter loves both our Collies, and she laughs and smiles when she plays with them.

So, no, my Collie doesn’t have a cold. She was de-barked. But we love her no less because she has a funny-sounding bark that causes people to ask if something is wrong with her. No, there’s nothing wrong with her.
As far as we’re concerned, she’s just fine.


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