Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Shaggy Serenader Slowly Changes His Tune

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Shaggy Serenader Slowly Changes His Tune

Article excerpt

Which one of your dogs howls? - Loud!" my neighbor Helen asked, when we met on our morning walk.

"You mean sings? That would be Toot."

Though his name suggests that we recognized his musical proclivities before we named him, we didn't. Toot started life with us as "Tutu," a small gray stray that materialized in our yard almost a year ago. His coat was so thickly matted from midriff to tail, above his skinny legs, that he reminded me of a tutu-clad ballerina.

As soon as I could lay hands on him, about a month after my senior dog, Lucy, adopted him, I snipped the felted fur away. As the frightened, half-starved little mutt transmogrified into an exuberant member of our household, his name correspondingly transformed to "Tootie" or "Toot."

Tootie weighs about 12 pounds. Though he's Lucy's junior in size and years of service, he holds his own around our place. Like Loose- Goose (one of senior dog's nicknames), his vision is seriously impaired by a thick fringe of fur that hangs down over his eyes.

But where Lucy's ears jerk her whole head up at the whir of bird's wings or the snap of a twig, Toot is all nose. Running full tilt after quarry that probably passed by hours earlier, his legs go out from under him wherever the animal zigged or zagged. His nose stays on course, but his feet can't.

That nose was a boon in the garden this past summer. I'm perennially plagued by rabbits and groundhogs. Tootie has yet to grasp the difference between raised beds and the paths between them (maybe next year!), but his enthusiastic embrace of pest control compensated for an occasional trampled cabbage.

Though gardening season's over, I still catch sight of him trotting along on his daily rounds. He also ably assists Lucy at keeping me informed about pedestrians, trucks, and motorcycles passing by up on the highway. And he warns me when the meter man and UPS van try to sneak down the driveway. But it's his singing voice that's making Toot famous around here.

Helen's right about its carrying power. My neighbors Meg and John live about a quarter mile down the road and can hear him clearly from their porch. …

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