The calm before the storm! No dogs yet, or kids. Just an irate crow yelling at the first fishermen or maybe the sun as dawn struggles to push back the night.
It's the start of another summer day in Cottage Country where too many refugees from city hassles revel in behaviour that would have the neighbours revolting if they tried this nonsense back home.
At times this summer, there have been 16 dogs at the eight cottages nearest me at Burnt Point on the Trent River. Only half stayed home. The owners had one or two dogs. The visitors brought dogs. The renters brought dogs. And then there were dogs just passing through.
And the calm you yearn for is punctuated by barking and squabbling, with whining and yelping thrown in when the owners disappear.
Then the kids start having a ball. The other day, I swear, there were screaming contests at two cottages. And around noon, with hangovers ebbing, the older brat kids have launched the first broadsides of awful music, which should drown out the dogs but don't.
It is not unique to have ads and stories in publications like Cottage Life magazine talk about lakes where outboards are banned. And we know about adult-only resorts. Maybe dog-free would be a good idea in a few cottage communities.
I don't give a damn about the noise from all the boats roaring by the point --although I wish they made more of a pretence at obeying the speed limit -- and obviously you really can't ban dogs, brats and loudspeakers, but wouldn't it be nice if more people acted at the cottage the way that the police, bylaw inspectors, dogcatchers and neighbours insist that they behave at home.
One night at the point around 3 a.m., a drunken youth who didn't realize he was no longer a spoiled teenager screamed at his inebriated posse that "we're at the cottage and we can do anything we want."
My grandsons have had to wear ear plugs to bed because of those louts. In the city they would have been busted by 2 a.m.
At home, a dog may wander on to my lawn and poop and howl maybe once a decade. At the cottage, every few days.
In Etobicoke, I have lived across from an elementary school for more than four decades. I have never heard the yowelling from the school yard at recess or lunch that is common at cottages.
Mary and I went shopping in the city for 25 minutes and returned to find the cops warily contemplating our basset hound who howled when he missed us. At the cottage we have hounds baying for hours.
Dogs meandering from three or four cottages away to dig up my flowers or snatch a hamburger from my barbeque don't happen every day. Just a few times a summer. But it still bugs me.
It astonishes me just who lets their dogs roam. I had a publisher whose big dumb dog seized steaks off the neighbour's barbeque, who just happened to be a Supreme Court justice. I didn't really mind that because earlier that day, the judge's dog had wandered up to me sunning on the beach, sniffed my foot and then peed all over it. The judge said: "Funny, I've never seen him do that before. " I said: "Funny? Most people would apologize. " But the judge merely patted his Baron.
If the spoiled local dogs aren't bad enough, visitors bring their little darlings. One fat beagle crawled under my new deck within minutes of arrival and got stuck. Her mistress said I would have to pull up the deck. I said "like hell." The master laboriously dug a trench and the dog wiggled out. Then it wandered down to the water and pooped. Neither master nor mistress had a plastic bag.
Why is it that visitors' dogs poop the minute they get out of the car? Is it how they welcome the host? I have other questions, like doesn't it bother the fishermen anchored just off the point when their dogs bark continuously at me as if I were the interloper?
I don't know what the answer is to the barking dogs/yelling kids problems other than basic civility. They should tie up the dogs, and maybe the kids, because cottages aren't just one giant backyard for all.
I could chugalug my first rum-and-coke at 9 a.m. and get a little help in tuning out the racket. But I would turn into a drunk.
You can get a break on your cottage taxes, I'm told, if water weeds turn your waterfront into a bog. I'm going to show up at my assessment appeal with a tape of the barking dogs/screaming kids. Maybe I can get a break from the authorities which I'm not getting from some neighbours.
Or maybe they should have cats as pets instead. Cats are the perfect urban pet. They don't give you dumb doggy adoration but they don't need to be looked after. Obviously too many adults fail that challenge in Cottage Country.