For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had to set an alarm. That’s because I used to be able to sleep. But now, my dogs have successfully hijacked my early morning hours. And by early, I don’t mean 5:30 a.m. I mean from 4:00 a.m.-on.
The complexities of this early-morning ritual are intricate and if it weren’t happening to me, it would maybe be cute. Between Gary’s hearing loss and being a naturally heavy sleeper, he is largely immune to this daily routine, which is kind of unfair, because whether he knows it or not, he contributed to its creation.
Several months back, Gary fed the dogs as soon as he got up which, generally, was around 6:00-6:30 a.m. Whether I was already up or not, Henry and Claire would leap into action and run to the kitchen whenever they heard him get out of bed. They would be patient while he performed his morning rituals and then ran with him to the kitchen and stared at him while he made their breakfast. Sounds innocent enough, right?
And then there were a couple of days when Gary was gone, so I had to feed them when I got up. Fair enough. Happy to do it.
What could possibly go wrong?
And then there were a few more mornings when I was awakened prematurely by Excel-based, work nightmares, so I got up around 4:00 a.m., made my morning cappuccino, and fed the dogs. They ate and immediately went back to bed. I, of course, did not.
This is when it started.
What had happened, unbeknownst to me, was that the dogs now made a new association: If I get up, they should be immediately fed. The hell with Gary; he’s so 2016.
You can see where this is going.
Within a few days, this line of canine thinking transitioned to: If WE wake up, she’ll feed us. That’s when the whole thing went south.
Like some of us humans, some older dogs seem to be getting up earlier too. As a matter of fact, they now wake up between 3:30-4:15. And if you only get fed once a day, like they do, they get pretty excited about it. I get it; I’d feel the same way if I ate only once a day. I remember once breaking a week-long fast with potato chips; yeah, I can get excited about food too.
So, let the negotiations begin! Here’s how it goes every day of the week, now:
- Around 3:30-4:00, Henry, the older, alpha male, puts his snout near mine and whimpers very softly, like a giant black and white kitten.
- I will awaken to this sound, like a good mother would, but keep my eyes closed and not move a muscle. This does not deter him.
- He will try this whimpering approach for maybe 10 minutes, I’ll eventually acknowledge him by whispering that he should lie down and go back to sleep.
- Henry dutifully but reluctantly lies down. I attempt to go back to sleep and always fail.
- A few short minutes later, in a last-ditch effort to get me up, Henry quietly signals for reinforcements.
- Claire, my angelic border collie, then jumps on the bed, sits next to my head, and stares at me. I don’t know if you are familiar with a border collie’s stare, but it is legendary. I am powerless in its grasp, like so many sheep have been in her life. One morning, I attempted to stave off their advances in the early morning while trying to read until the Magic Hour (to come), and snapped one off of Claire and Henry, doing their best to stare me down:
- The line I won’t cross is feeding them before 5:00 am. This is the Magic Hour. I refuse to budge on this; there is no canine negotiation here. So this next hour is spent with Henry repeating steps 1-4 while I mostly try and fail to get back to sleep. It’s now a battle of wills. I know I will lose, but at least I’m controlling when it will happen.
- At about 4:59, my bladder is almost as interested in getting me up as my dogs are and I reluctantly give in. I whisper to Henry, “Henry, do you want your breakfast?” He pops up like a puppy and gives me a big, sloppy, Henry-kiss on the face.
- Claire immediately vocalizes from her self-assigned spot on the floor and jumps on the bed. I ask her the same question and she plops a few little Claire kisses on my already-soggy face.
- And we’re up! The dogs run down the long hall and I stagger to the nearby bathroom. Claire runs in and stares at me to make sure I’m not going back to bed.
- Flanked on either side by watchful, concerned eyes, I prepare Henry and Claire’s fantastic breakfast; it’s almost cute enough for a YouTube video:
- In five minutes, it’s all over. They then run down the hall and jump back in bed with Gary and are fast asleep within seconds.
- I am left alone to make my cappuccino and ponder life, the universe, and everything, until I, too, need to leap into action for the day. I’d much rather be sleeping.
An hour or more later, Gary wakes up naturally and asks if coffee has been made. After all, if I’m up, there must be coffee, right? I sigh audibly, make coffee, and fantasize about a morning when I can sleep in past 4:00 am and when someone hands me a perfectly-made cappuccino the minute I get up, whenever that might be.
Like most fantasies, this one probably won’t come true either. But a girl can dream.
What keeps me going is wondering what will happen in May, when I’m out of town for two weeks. What will happen then? Will the canine alarm clock still go off at 4:00 a.m.? Will they need to jump on Gary’s head to get him out of bed, or will Henry have to feign throwing up first?
In the meantime, if you wonder why I am in a coma on the sofa at 8:30 pm, while watching John Wick, that’s why. Short of a caffeine drip at 4:00 pm, this is as good as I get. For now.
Sorry, I just had to get this out of my system.
Thanks for reading. I know how busy you are.