The many meanings of a boisterous bark

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS Managing Editor

There’s nothing as pleasing to the ear as a baby’s first words (unless, of course, it’s the sound of coffee being brewed). Some children murmur “mama.” Others puff plosives with “papa.” My first word was “hotdog.”

Our eight-week old puppy Lulu found the joy of her voice just this morning. Yes, Lulu learned to bark. As glorious as a baby’s morning “mama,” “papa” or “hotdog” may be, a crack of dawn bark is tad annoying.

Especially since my boyfriend and I argued – over coffee – on what she was saying. I insisted it was “papa take me outside” while he stood firm with “mama feed me.”

There is a Japanese gadget on the market, or at least there was unless it was recalled for inaccuracy, that would actually translate the bark into the human language. I don’t remember if it would translate into Japanese or English, but I’m sure they had another gadget for that.

Some examples found on one of their ads went something like the following. “Bark” meant “papa take me outside.” “Bark bark” meant “papa feed me.” “Bark arf bark” meant “papa I just peed on the carpet please clean it up.” Over our second cup of coffee, I tried to convince my boyfriend to invest in this wondrous toy. But he said something must get lost in translation.

Our other dog howls. Scratch spews forth one of those coyote-like caterwauls that sound like he is being sacrificed on a sheep altar. His new-found anguished cry comes anytime he is left on the porch. His being left on the porch is a result of running away yet again. I wonder if the Japanese gadget would translate his cry as “hmmm…I see a connection here.”

Instead it may say “I promise not to run away again if you just let me in the house and give me some more of that bean dip.”

Although the barks/wails/moans can get excruciatingly painful – perhaps for the dogs and us – we have to realize the beauty of the voice.

I certainly do since I was in the habit of losing mine once a year when I used to attend too many Rolling Stones concerts. A day without a voice is like a dose of silent death. We must wonder how those monks do it – but then again, they don’t have to go to the nearest convenience store and try to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Actually, cigarette purchases are comparatively easy with no voice – one can usually just point to get the point across. But voice-loss is a catastrophe when something more complicated is needed, such as a size 8 pink taffeta ball gown with just the right amount of beaded lace at the bodice (something everyone needs when they lose their voice).

Here’s where a notepad and Sharpie marker save your life. When I cleaned out my apartment to move, I found reams of paper with whole conversations on them. “Can’t talk,” would be the first line in my writing, followed by a response of “Why not?” Next would come “Lost voice” as the person responding would write “How?” Yes, getting a size 8 pink taffeta ball gown
with just the right amount of beaded lace at the bodice may be a week-long task.

The same thing happens when you have a wisp of a voice and can only whisper. The person to whom you are speaking will inevitably whisper back at you, as if your loss of voice somehow affects their own.

The best cure for voice loss has always been a magic tea made of slippery elm bark. It’s used by opera singers, auctioneers and they even found a case in Sid Vicious’ apartment when he died. It soothes the vocal cords, warms the throat and is sure to restore a voice that’s been abused.

Perhaps it shall be needed by the howling Scratch; we’ll slip some into his bean dip.