A short time ago, Murphy was sitting at the window looking out at the world beyond the deck.
Suddenly, he let out a low growl.
"What you got, boy?" I asked, suspecting that it was just another damned cat from the neighbor's house. But part of training Murphy to be a good watchdog is to validate him when he alerts correctly, and check him when he just goes off on cats, so this means that every time he alerts, I have to respond and reward him when he gets it right.
Tonight he got it right.
As I walked over, his growl turned into a full-fledged barking fit. There was a man down by my SUV. Now I recognized the man as Bubba, a neighbor, and saw that he was dropping something off for me in his usual fashion: leaving it atop my SUV instead of knocking on the door. But Murphy, who also knows Bubba from encounters on the street, wasn't having any of that; he was going crazy. I opened the patio door and let him out onto the deck, and he hit the 2x4 deck rails so hard that I expected to hear wood cracking. He then proceeded to jam his head between the rails and barked at this neighbor like I've seldom heard a dog bark before. He was giving it everything he had, and I had to wave Bubba back when he tried to get close enough to reach up and pet Murphy like he's done before. I knew that Murphy was in protection mode, and if Bubba put his hand within Murphy's reach, he'd likely not get it all back. This dog was not playing. Not one bit.
I told Bubba that I'd come down and catch him next door in a couple of minutes after I got Murphy back inside. As he left, I petted and praised Murphy and gave him a dog cookie, because that's exactly what I want to see him do when strangers approach the house. I want him to let me know that someone's there, and if for some reason I'm not around and the stranger attempts entry, I want Murphy to deal with the situation. And this little exhibition gave me good reason to suspect that Murphy's pretty close to getting it. It was obvious watching him that Murphy's not trying to get off the deck to attack, but he's clearly drawing a line in the sand and warning people not to cross it. And I pity the fool who comes up those steps and dares step over the baby gate.
"Go ahead...make my day."