The Dog Next Door

It was our fifth recording session. We were almost halfway through the book. As I did my vocal training exercises, Karyn packed up Luna for a hike with all her requisite puppy supplies. I apologized to Karyn once more for forcing her out of the house with our pup. “I really appreciate it,” I said, “but we just can’t have any barking in the background.” Luna wasn’t a huge barker, but her voice was loud when she wanted to express herself. I couldn’t take the risk. I was paying a lot of money for these recording sessions.

At 8:00 AM, I entered my makeshift recording booth carrying a thermos of ginger-lemon-honey tea, a water bottle, and a bottle of Echinacea-Elderberry Syrup. I plugged in my gear in the right sequence: mic first, then load Audacity, then plug in the headphones. I carefully went through my warm-up routine and located our starting place in the script. As I continued to stretch my palate and warm up my lips and tongue, I started to hear barking from behind me. Luna and Karyn had left already. It definitely wasn’t Luna. It had to be the dog next door. Not the usual dog next door—our neighbor’s dog rarely barks—it had to be a second dog, a new dog, or maybe a visiting dog? Barking had never been an issue before or I wouldn’t have attempted recording an audiobook at home, but for the past several days, there had been a lot of barking from next door. It set Luna off repeatedly. She’d hear the other dog and then start barking in response. And unfortunately, the recording studio in my office closet includes an exterior wall, and the little building my office is in, the former garage, is right up against the fence line. When I’m working, I can hear everything from next door. And today, it was a dog. A dog who kept barking. And barking. Soundproofing blankets weren’t doing a thing to dampen this sound.

At our designated time, 8:30 AM, I connected with Becky on Zoom. She was ready and prepared to read all the other characters in my memoir. We talked a little business and then I told her there was a dog barking behind me. I could hear that bark loud and clear through my headphones. She could hear it through Zoom.

Shit. I sent away one dog only to be hijacked by another?

I asked Becky to wait, walked next door, and knocked on our neighbor’s front door. The dogs—now I could hear clearly that there were two—went wild. No one answered. No humans were home.

I walked back to my little recording studio and reported to Becky via our Zoom link. “No one is home.” The dog, the louder one, was still barking.

“Maybe you should write a note and put it on their door?” Becky suggested.

So, I did: “Hi, you may or may not know this, but I’m an author and I’m trying to record an audiobook next door and your dog won’t stop barking….” I mentioned the upcoming recording times and asked her to contact me. I left my phone number. As I taped my note on their front door, the dogs went berserk. If there hadn’t been a wall between us, I worried that they would have raced out, teeth bared, ready to attack me.

By the time I got back in my clearly-not-soundproofed-enough booth, the barking had quieted. Maybe Loud Dog was napping. “Let’s try it,” I said to Becky, but as soon as I was midway through reading the first paragraph, Loud Dog started barking again. We recorded another sentence and then another. Once we got through a whole page. But we were always interrupted by more barking. The second I heard that horrible piercing sound, I wanted to deny it. I wanted to pretend I wasn’t really hearing a dog bark, but of course, I couldn’t. Finally, Becky and I agreed to call a pause. I said I’d text her if I heard back from the neighbors. I went out front, sat on the curb, hoping they’d drive up. I called Karyn and told her what was happening.

“I’ve been afraid of that,” she said. This visiting dog had been barking a lot in recent days. Maybe it was our neighbor’s son’s dog. Or maybe she’d gone back to work in person after being vaccinated and the dog was lonely. Perhaps he was just a dog who loved to bark.

An hour later, after the dogs had been quiet for ten minutes, I called Becky. “Let’s try again.”

This time we got through one entire short chapter, one out of seventy chapters. But it was hard for me to focus. I’m sure my delivery sounded like crap. How could I get into character (even if that character was me) if I was constantly anticipating interruption? My body was not relaxed. My throat constricted. I could barely focus on the words on the page. Finally, after several more starts and forced stops, we called it a day. I prayed I’d hear from our neighbors soon because our next recording session was scheduled for the very next morning.

That night I got a text from our neighbor. She was at a wedding in Los Angeles and a young man was housesitting for them. Our neighbor’s sister said she’d come over to help. The next day, the dogs were silent. Phew. We were able to record.

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