MATTOON — Golden retriever Lilly was in a "puppy kindergarten" training class when she let loose a bark that was surprisingly loud for a 4-month-old dog, said owners Nathaniel and Lisa West of Mattoon.
"We called it her 'big girl voice,'" Lisa West said.
Lilly, now 11 years old, eventually developed an even louder bark — so loud that the Wests have started preparing to seek Guinness World Records certification for her bark.
Their idea began taking shape a few months ago when Lisa West looked up the Guinness World Records listing for the loudest bark by a dog. The Guinness website reports that this record bark measured 113.1 decibels and was produced by a golden retriever named Charlie, owned by Belinda Freebairn, on Oct. 20, 2012, in Adelaide, Australia.
Lisa West said her husband then used a decibel meter app on his cellphone to measure Lilly's bark. She said their golden retriever was hitting 114-116 decibels while barking at her normal sound level. Lisa West noted that Lilly has always been "talkative" and needs no coaxing to bark, especially if she hears one of her favorite phrases — "road trip."
Nathaniel West said they then asked Sound Source Music Center staff member and veteran guitarist Jon Clarkson to measure Lilly's bark with a professional decibel meter. He said Lilly's bark was measured at 122.9 decibels during this Oct. 3 visit, which was recorded by a TV crew from Herald & Review media partner WCIA. He said this decibel level is roughly equal to a rock concert or thunderclap.
"No doubt it's a loud bark. It would catch you off guard if you were not prepared," Clarkson said of his 122.9 decibel measurement. Clarkson added that he typically sets the starting decibel level in front of the stage at indoor concerts at 105 and then adjusts the level based on the venue and the audience.
Nathaniel West said he and his wife plan to submit an application, including an affidavit from Clarkson and other supporting documents, to Guinness World Records to have Lilly certified as having the loudest bark by a dog. He said the regular application process can take several months.
Lisa West said she actually used to be terrified of dogs, but knew that her husband had fond childhood memories of the golden retrievers that his family kept as pets. She said she saw a newspaper classified advertisement 11 years ago for golden retriever puppies in Decatur and decided to go take a look at them.
Nathaniel West said golden retriever puppies are too cute to just "take a look" at them, so their family soon ended up with their first dog — Lilly. Lisa West added that she kept her distance from Lilly for about a week, but was soon won over by the golden retriever's affectionate personality.
"Lisa went from being terrified of dogs in general to being a definite dog person," Nathaniel West said. Their family now has two other golden retrievers to keep Lilly company — Lucy, 9, and Luke, 1.