It’s three-thirty in the morning. Our bedroom is void of light – blacker than a banker’s heart. I’m aroused to reality by the sound of heavy panting and I sense, rather than see, the penetrating gaze of a pair of big, soft brown eyes. I know right away it isn’t my wife. She has blue eyes. When she would awaken me panting like that 40 years ago, I’d be a happy guy but if she did that now, I’d be dialing 911.
The heavy panter is our dog. He is informing me in his own peculiar way that he needs to go out. He began this routine several years ago when he was sick. Feeling sorry for him, we acquiesced to this little early morning whim. Of course now we regret that decision. The dog never barks or whines, he just stands close to my face and pants. He has the patience and cunning of a brownie selling girl scout cookies – he’ll keep up the panting relentlessly until I give in.
It’s an amazing force of nature I guess that our dog runs on an exact twelve hour food/potty schedule. Go out then eat at 3:30 PM, then repeat the routine exactly twelve hours later at 3:30 AM. Of course there are some interspersed outdoor excursions but they don’t have the urgency of the three-thirty to three-thirty regime. What really amazes me is that, unlike our clocks, I don’t have to manually adjust the dog to daylight savings time, he does it automatically!
Arising at 3:30 AM is an adventure for me as well as the dog. After stumbling around in the dark cursing and crashing into the door jam or bed post, I eventually find my pants and socks. Remembering to put them in a findable location before I go to bed at night helps but, like putting the toilet seat back down, I’m kind of hit and miss on this recollection.
I always let the dog out the front door. Since that interesting black morning when the dog walked off to the East to take a pee while a skunk strolled up from the South to take its pee, I now make sure the dog is on a long extendable leash. Luckily for me, the dog never saw that skunk before he moseyed off. I’m only guessing, but I’m pretty sure it was my fear sweat that convinced the skunk to leave.
During spring, summer and fall mornings, on his way to his favorite alleviating spot, the dog occasionally freezes, raises his nose skyward and sniffs deeply. A wistful poet would view this as my dog appreciating the mysteries of nature. The pragmatic reality is that this is a dog getting the scent of ‘SOMETHING’ out in the blackness. Now that something could be a deer, squirrel or field mouse but at 3:30 AM my sleepless, dream addled brain realizes it could also be a wolf or a BEAR. I tend to encourage the dog to “hurry, hurry, hurry,” at times like this.
My dog usually performs his early morning ritual in a reasonably perfunctory manor – except of course when it’s twenty below and windy. Then he decides to take his good natured time exploring for the ‘best spot’. It’s during extended frigid selection periods like these that mother nature reminds me I’ve forgotten to zip up my pants again. And for those of you beyond the pale of sixty, you know what comes next – watching and waiting for the dog wakes up my bladder which screams to me, “Dick, you need to get back in the house, NOW!”
You’ve got to admire my dog’s attitude though. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow nor dark of night will keep him from getting his master out of bed for his appointed 3:30 AM rounds. Hey, here he comes now with toy, wanting me to play. “Sorry pal, your old master isn’t quite up to chasing – his frost bite still chafes a bit when he runs.