The last week Rex has been growling at the back door. Every night he stood there, his claws dug into the kitchen floor, his ears raised and his teeth bared. And he growled. For hours he growled.
Rex has never been like that. He was always incredibly calm. I remember how we drove on the highway. Suddenly Shana screamed “Stop!” and her hand grabbed the steering wheel.
I saw the puppy in the last minute and with squeaking brakes nearly crashed our car into a tree. Even then, as a puppy, he was calm. When we got out of the car he still sat in the middle of the road with his tiny tongue hanging out of his mouth and eyes that seemed to ask us why we had made such a fuss.
There was no one else around. There weren’t any houses, not even a petrol station nearby. Just him. After drinking about half a bottle of water the little German Shepherd fell asleep in Shana’s lap. We named him after an old TV show dog: Rex.
Since then Rex lived with us. But he never behaved like he did the last weeks. Half his night was spent standing in the kitchen with his eyes fixated on the thin door. It was as if Rex knew that somebody was outside and wanted to scare that somebody away. He only calmed down when we took him to our bedroom, but even then he was nervous and got up every few minutes to sniff the door or stretch up and towards the window.
We know that Rex is a fighter. He is keen on defending us and our house. Once Rex even caught a burglar. We went shopping and must have forgotten to lock the front door. An hour later we returned and heard Rex growling from inside the house.
The young man had climbed on the kitchen counter and was shaking a knife in Rex’s direction. In between his growls Rex opened his mouth halfway and his large teeth seemed to point in the direction of the burglar. The moment the police arrived Rex calmed down and walked to the other end of the room to make space for the officers.
With every passing night of Rex growling I grew more and more convinced that he wasn’t growling at something. It seemed more as if he was trying to warn us.
I don’t want to say that Rex is the best dog in the world, but he sure as hell is one of the best and he always seems to sense trouble. I’m convinced that on a Saturday last October he saved Shana from something bad. Shana has always been independent and she loves running, particularly in the large forest that starts right behind our house.
That time Shana was out for maybe half an hour – not an unusual time for her. Rex was with me in the garden but suddenly he began wincing and walked in small circles until he finally walked to our garden gate and stopped behind it. Our fence is high and Rex knows that he can’t climb it. He just stood there, with his body towards the gate but his head turned back towards me, and winced.
I thought he just felt some bad bowel movements coming. I threw my shoes on, put a leash on him and opened the gate. The moment the gate was open Rex sprinted off. He just ripped the leash out of my hand and ran into the trees.
I tried to follow him but he was so fast that it was impossible to keep the pace. For two or three minutes longer I heard Rex. After that I called him a few times. When he didn’t return I went home. I figured he knew the way back and would come whenever his lust for hunting or whatever else it was was satisfied.
Rex was back twenty minutes later. Shana was jogging and he was at her side and held his own leash in his mouth.
Later Shana told me that she had felt watched. She had felt as if somebody was there with her in the forest. She had run faster but the sensation had only increased – until suddenly there was a series of loud cracking sounds to her side. Shana said she nearly got a heart attack when Rex jumped out of the woods.
She also said that the moment Rex arrived the sensation of being watched went away. Since then she takes Rex on most of her jogs.
What I mean to say is that Rex is a smart dog. I’m convinced that he hears and senses things that we don’t. That’s why his growling at the wooden back door and his nervous pacing in our room are so disturbing. It seems to mean that he knows something is there and he knows that it shouldn’t be there. But whatever it is – the growling doesn’t seem to scare it off.
The first three nights I took a golf club and went outside with Rex. I held his leash in my left and the club in my right hand.
When we went in the garden Rex still growled, but he didn’t pull on the leash or try to run. That’s what he usually does when he hears or smells something. The leash was hanging loosely between us and Rex stayed close to my side.
He growled for maybe half a minute. His eyes seemed to scan the whole garden; particularly when I shone my flashlight around. Then, from one moment to the next, he stopped growling. He turned his head towards me and his eyes had the same look that they have when he wants to go for a walk or wants a second portion of food.
By that time it was nearly midnight and I took him inside instead.
Rex seemed happy at first and allowed me to caress his neck and head. Then, a minute or two later his ears rose again, his body tensed and he growled again.
I’m not sure whether it’s related at all, but Shana told me yesterday that a lot of meat has gone missing from the fridge and she thinks there might even some be missing from the freezer. Sometimes Rex is home along, so, in theory, he could have done it. That’s what Shana thinks, particularly because we know that he can open the fridge – a few time we caught him red-mouthed with his head in the cheese tray.
I have my doubts about Rex stealing the meat. For once he was always more interested in the cheese than the meat and when I tested him yesterday – I offered him a piece of sausage or a piece of cheese – he prefered the cheese. Secondly there was no plastic in his stool. I mean, not that I searched through it – but it’s not just the meat that’s gone. With it the wax paper and cling films or plastic trays have disappeared.
The vet said that Rex’s growling is not that unusual. He thinks that behavior has nothing to do with a lust for hunt but is instead more likely directed at another dog – “an intruder on the home dog’s territory.”
I’m not sure what to make of that. None of our neighbors have dogs and the few people that have dogs would rather walk past the front of our house than past the back. And they certainly wouldn’t stay there for several hours of the night.
Some neighbors also have cats but Rex never had an issue with cats. He actually likes to play with them, which is why most cats avoid our garden.
One week of growling and no questions answered. Maybe I should have bought some sort of CCTV to make sure that there really is nothing in our garden. I will definitely do that on Monday.
I just hope it’s not too late for that.
The thing is that last night Rex growled again. We took him to our bedroom after ten or twenty minutes. He was quiet for a moment but then he suddenly started growling again. He stood the same way that he had stood behind the back door, with his whole body tense and his eyes focused on the door. Only that it was our bedroom door rather than the back door.
Shana tried to get a handful of sleep while I went through the house with Rex to check for any intruders. There really was nothing, even Rex stopped growling and instead walked closely next to me, sometimes even behind me.
Back in our bedroom he instantly started growling again. After five minutes of that I opened the door and gave him the command to go outside. He obeyed, but at the point when I closed the door he noticed that I didn’t join him and he quickly bared his teeth. I even left the corridor lights on for him, he sleeps better with them on.
After a week of sleep deficit it was easy to fall asleep and I think Shana felt the same way. Rex’s growling on the corridor seemed to fade into the distance. Shana fell asleep first. I heard her steady breathing and two or three, at most five minutes later I was gone too.
We must have slept deeply. It must have been incredibly loud when the back door broke.
Usually Rex welcomes us when we leave our bedroom. This morning that wasn’t the case. Instead the house just felt cold and windy.
When we were downstairs we knew why it was cold. The lower half of the door was completely shattered; the upper half was barely hanging on the hinges.
Rex wasn’t in the garden either. I was always so sure that he wouldn’t be able to jump over the fence.
Shana spent two or three hours on the phone to find an affordable handyman that can replace the door on Monday or Tuesday. I heard her cursing at Rex and his ‘destructive drive.’
I’m not angry at him. I haven’t told Shana about that, but I am mostly worried about him. He is still somewhere out there, alone, in the forest.
I don’t want to draw fast conclusions, but when I think about the way the door was destroyed cold shivers run down my spine. The wood was old and it would at some point certainly have given in. But the door didn’t just give in to a few scratches. It looked as if it had been rammed open.
All day Shana has cursed about Rex and all day I have worried about Rex. Either way, the sun has set again and as a matter of fact he is still not back.
I fear for Rex. But right now, with the night approaching and the gaping hole still in the door, I mostly fear for us.
The thing is that I was the one that cleaned up the splintered wood.
I think that’s why Shana didn’t realize from which direction the ramming had come from.
I don’t think Shana noticed that most of the splinters were lying inside the house.
Update: Two days later