Ah, it felt so good to be clean again and to crawl into my little bed with the scratchy sheets and the lumpy pillow. I was so tired that I didn’t care. It all felt fine and I was soon asleep, my first peaceful night in Samara…I am not certain what time the barking began but somehow the constant staccato of barks and howls wormed its way into my dreams. I awoke slowly, pulled from some deep REM by the incessant sounds of dogs. Since I have a dog and live in a neighborhood with plenty of dogs, I often hear them: the happy yap of a dog playing in the yard, the urgent woof of my dog as he trees a squirrel, the warning growl or snarl of a dog that is guarding his yard or house. These are not unusual sounds but the barking of the dogs in Samara was unlike any I had ever heard simply because of the duration and the number of dogs involved in the call and response.
When I first heard the barking – sharp, loud and constant – I lay in my bed and listened for a while, certain that it would stop, just as it does at home. But I discovered that in Samara there are packs of dogs and even those that do have a home are kept outdoors, permanently. I am not certain if the local dogs here ever go in the house. While many wear collars and appear to be fed and happy, they still roam the streets and seem to have formed small packs that protect certain neighborhoods. The dog’s voices that night were loud enough to wake me up, and so prolonged, so consistent, that there was no way to go back to sleep. I looked at the travel clock by my bed: 2:00 am. I shifted, rolled over, tried to relax my mind but the barking continued, sounding as if the pack were just outside my door. I could discern many different voices, some high-pitched and fast, others deeper and more mournful. I fought the urge to get upset, after all, it was only some dogs….but I wondered why no one was calling them, no one was yelling at them to quiet down. Did no one else hear this cacophony? The family who owns the motel lives above the restaurant and they have no air conditioning. Every day I see that the large windows to their rooms are wide open, so I can only assume that they leave the windows open at night, too. It is so hot here I cannot imagine anyone being able to sleep in a sealed room.
I kept waiting for someone to react, to scream “Shut Up” in Spanish. I looked at the clock again and it was almost 4:00 am. OK. That’s it. If no one is going to do anything about these yowling canines, I will. I jumped off of my top bunk and slipped on some shorts under my nightgown. By now I was wide awake and my nerves were frayed; I was ready to scream a host of profanities at the offending dogs. I cautiously peaked out my door, half expecting to see a dozen or more dogs slinking through the restaurant. But it was clear. I walked out further, through the restaurant and into the street, which was dark except for the light from the moon. There, in the open field next to Sol Y Mar, were my nemeses. Lounging in the field were 6 or 8 dogs, all having a grand time chatting with one another and petering the horses. In the middle of the grass stood a feisty little black dog, a mixture of who knows what, and it was barking the loudest and the longest. Near the dogs, a few horses lingered and picked at the remains of the dried brown grass. Dios mio, why were all these dogs making such a racket? Whatever the reason, I had reached my limit. In my flimsy nightgown, I marched into the field, heading straight for the ringleader, the tiny black dog with the seriously big mouth. I headed for it with purpose and gave it my best stare-down. “Shoo, Scat, Vamos!” I spoke to him in my most authoritative voice and waved my arms in big circles as I got closer and closer.
Perhaps I was a bit mad, as being sleep deprived can make a person, but I here I was, in the middle of the night, in my nightgown, in a field filled with barking dogs and roaming horses, and I didn’t even think of the potential danger or how crazy I might have looked to anyone passing by. It was me or him. Finally, after several choice words and a few more gesticulations, the little black dog took off and the others followed. I had won, I think. I heard them barking through the streets, their cries getting fainter, and I was so happy that they were now in someone else’s neighborhood! It was quiet once again, just me, the empty street and a sky full of stars. I returned to my room, held my breath and waited. Would they come back? A few minutes ticked by and still no barking. I curled up again in my bed and fell back to sleep, proud of my valiant efforts to tackle a pack of mouthy dogs.
I had learned in less than 48 hours just how noisy a new place can be and how sensitive to sounds I am, maybe more so than the average person. It still perplexes me how anyone could sleep through the mind-numbing, incessant barking that I experienced that night but I guess some can. Night one was music and karaoke; night two was baying dogs…what might come next? I didn’t have to wait long for the answer to that question. At dawn, the local roosters perked up and began their songs. Back and forth, back and forth they called, intermittingly but still loud and strong enough to pierce the thin walls of my dormitorio. Now I am on another mission, on a quest to figure out how scare a rooster into silence or locate a store where I can buy some ear plugs.