Friday, July 20, 2012


Fitzroy doesn't usually make a lot of noise. When he's playing with Moshé and Fanette, he barks a lot in the hope of impressing the donkeys. Then he's no doubt dismayed to discover that his barking doesn't impress them at all. So, whenever he wants to startle the donkeys, Fitzroy adopts the surprise-arrival technique, which consists of creeping up on the drowsy animals, suddenly appearing from nowhere and leaping in front of them... which usually creates the desired effects. In general, whenever Fitzroy is confronted with any kind of unfamiliar phenomenon, he tends to sink onto his belly so that he can study the situation calmly at ground level. During this kind of observation phase (which Fitzroy even applies to me when I return to Gamone after a shopping excursion), the dog remains perfectly motionless. Then, when he has successfully analyzed the situation, he promptly wags his tail, while still laying flat on the ground, indicating that the meditation operations are terminated.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, besides his normal barking, Fitzroy is capable of producing a quite fabulous sound. He can howl like a wolf! But he only does this in special circumstances, when he has encountered an exceptional situation... such as the presence of roe deer, for example, on the slopes opposite the house. When he starts to howl, Fitzroy throws his head back, stretches his neck and seems to be gazing at the heavens. As for sound itself, it's blood-curdling (as they say in the classics), but particularly fascinating when you have the privilege of being just alongside the howling beast. Well, yesterday, finding that Fitzroy was emitting a halfhearted howl (I forget why), I decided to see if I could encourage him. So, I did my best to imitate Fitzroy imitating a wolf. Miracle, it worked. Fitzroy was thrilled to find his master howling like an aging wolf with laryngitis, and he promptly howled back at me. Every time I croaked out a feeble howl, Fitzroy responded like an opera star. But he soon lost interest in the game.

Today, I succeeded twice in getting him started again. Tomorrow I'll get together some kind of reward system, such as chunks of cheese. Maybe there's a future for us on the stage of a Riviera cabaret, or on TV. But the situation can be embarrassing whenever Fitzroy has decided that enough is enough. If a visitor were to drop in at Gamone at such a moment, and find me howling ridiculously in front of a silent dog, I might have some psychiatric questions to answer.

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