Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dog Nights

Weekends, in my mind, exist to break the regularity of the ‘regular’ week. Break the drill of awakening at 6:00 and going to work. Break the routine bedtime between 10 and 11 required to awaken at 6. Stay up until there’s no longer a good reason to do so – finally driven to bed by fatigue, boredom, exhaustion of all entertainment opportunities or a lack of television programming.

Several lifetimes ago, while younger, more socially connected and unencumbered by the compromises of a relationship, this theory worked pretty well. It was a tragedy to be home on a Friday night – social suicide and a complete waste of a night with the opportunity to be out living late. Life was all around and being home constituted exile from it. Friends and I went to dinner and clubs and danced until we were exhausted, often wrapping up our adventures with an early morning breakfast.

After a series of sacrifice-riddled relationships with guys who were either too disinterested in a social scene to participate, too mentally old to keep up with one, too frugal to part with a cover charge and the cost of a cocktail, or too broke to carry their own financial weight, I am exorcised of my own social inclinations. The social butterfly was, bit by bit, numbed and tamed. Unfortunately, in no case did compromise, sacrifice and stifling a social nature insure permanence in the relationship, and the men, for the most part, are now mere footnotes and references in the fractured fairytale of a life. Perhaps there is no Prince Charming for this Princess, just a series of trolls, ogres and frogs. And there is probably a lesson buried in there – along the lines of a Shakespearan “To thine own self be true” – but lessons seem to be forgotten when hormones kick in and promises are made to a hopeful heart just lonely enough to want to believe.

Friends in the royal realm, meanwhile, have managed to ferret out Kings, Princes, Public Safety Officers, American patriots, and are halves to couples sharing busy, fulfilling lives with well-matched partners and various combinations of children and family and social circles.

Whether by conscious choice (rare) or the absence of playmates (frequent), being home alone on a weekend night is now the norm to a frequently frustrated life. This does not, of course, imply a fondness for the situation, but there has been a gradual acceptance of the fate of being just like my grandmother, who lived alone and acted independently in most matters, for better or worse, by chance or by choice.

In a city overpopulated with rednecks, soldiers and dorm dicks on the prowl, it’s unlikely I’m going to spend unaccompanied nights in a bar – in my mind that is just begging for trouble. The only decent book store/ coffee shop was claimed long ago by the latest ex, who was exceptionally fastidious in excluding me from his social scene, so entering that territory would feel desperate, stalker-like and too pathetic for even my lonely and rapidly disintegrating standards. So, by default, home and pissed off it is. We have a loser.

But at least, as ruler of my own universe, I can determine how late I stay up and how late I sleep. Right?

Yeah, right.

Even this small event rarely works out like I fancy. Not the sleeping late part anyway. Not since Moose, the canine captain of my life took over the scene.

The staying up late part is generally successful, once I get past Moose looking at me, head cocked, eyes questioning me with what I imagine to be “Well? Tick tock, tick tock. Let’s go lady!” He is a master timekeeper and starts his silent bedtime notices around 10:00 nightly. If I haven’t gotten the message by 11:00, he may even growl and emit a sharp bark to get my full attention and race me to the bedroom. I generally ignore him on Fridays and Saturdays, and eventually he’ll curl up on the couch, half buried in toss pillows and sleep, jumping to attention any time I make a grand gesture like straightening a leg or reaching for the TV remote. I keep hoping his doggy brain will grasp the rhythm of the week, but he is fixedly attuned to a 24 hour cycle, not a seven day pattern.

No matter how late I manage to keep us up, there often exists a post-bedtime pattern. My own insomniac issues usually involve waking up almost precisely one or two hours after I go to sleep, regardless of what time I retire. I generally awaken just enough to groggily guess the time based on when I went to bed, verify it on the clock, mutter an expletive or an outright death-wish, roll over and go back to sleep.

Moose has his own little routine. He likes to mark time beginning at, oh, 4:00. With a repeat performance at 5:00. And at 6:00. Like he fancies himself Big Ben or something. Each time it’s the same – he knocks his toy off the bed – the red plush bone, the knotted rope, the rubbery chew bone – and jumps off the bed after it. Then, because he has never mastered jumping onto the bed which is a tad too tall for him, he plants himself alongside it, raised on his hind legs, front paws clawing at the edge of the mattress until I wake up. I tell him to go lay down in his own bed. He does not. I ask if he wants to go outside. He becomes excited and dances around on his hind legs. I exit the snuggly comfort of my bed, open the bedroom door, and he runs down the hallway, not to the front door, but to the kitchen. I stand at the front door, holding it open. Moose stands his ground at his still full water bowl. We look at each other. I close and lock the door and return to the bedroom. He follows. I ask if he wants to be back on the bed. He jumps around. We return to bed. For a good hour anyway.

We repeat this little ritual regularly, some nights more often than others. On a few rare and blissful nights I am spared the routine and he sleeps through, though I don’t know what the magical key is that enables it.

Most mornings, per his highly accurate internal clock, at 6:00 Moose is off the bed for the umpteenth time, followed by hopping aside it, clawing at the blankets. I admit, there have been more than a few weekday mornings this has totally saved me from oversleeping when I forgot to set the alarm clock. And I finally learned to just get up and feed him, and then he will go outside, and then we can go back to bed if it is the weekend. It took him five months to train me on that bit, but I am encouraged by knowing I am still trainable.

If only I could train him to take me out on weekends…

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