Many of you are probably familiar with Aesop's fable of the boy who cried wolf. In the story, the boy cries wolf to attract the attention of the villagers even though there is no wolf. When a wolf really does show up, no one believes the boy because he has cried wolf too many times.
I was reminded of this fable yesterday (August 2010) when Romeo was out in our back yard barking. If we have dogs who like to bark at things, we often assume they are “crying wolf” and ignore or scold them for barking. I try never to assume Romeo is barking at “nothing” because there's always a reason for his barking. Most often, it is the bunny rabbits that set him off, but sometimes it's other things that I can't see or hear.
In this case, when I went to check on him, he was focused not outside the fence but on the ground inside the fence. I could not see anything at first, so I thought it was probably a bug or a weed or a stick that he thought deserved some extra attention. When I got closer to investigate, I realized there was a bull snake rearing up and hissing at him. Romeo was cautious and keeping a bit of distance, but I didn't want him anywhere near the snake. While bull snakes are not venomous, I didn't want to chance anything happening to either Romeo or the snake.
Romeo was not particularly cooperative at going in the house, but once we got him inside, we focused on getting the snake out of the fence. The snake was less cooperative than Romeo had been. Using boards, we tried to direct him toward the fence, and he gave quite a performance hissing and striking at the board. We eventually got him outside the fence, only to have him come right back in and climb into the bush near the fence. There was no moving him, so we kept everyone inside the rest of the evening to give the snake time to depart.
The moral of this story: don't always assume your dog is “crying wolf” when he's barking. Sometimes there is a good reason for the barking, so make sure you are listening just in case!