A few years ago* my best friend and I had some conversation about writing down our morning routines. I think it was just for ourselves, something to write for each other. Maybe I should have asked her before I post this entry, but I am pretty sure it was just an exercise in, “how our lives are sooo different” a subject that comes up…how to say this…a lot. And not just because I get up like, five hours before her each day.
The day begins with some alarms going off, some realizations, and idenifications (where I am, what just happened was a dream, and what day is it?) some running into the hallway and back, and two tails wagging, which on a bed, is this unique beating sound. Now here’s the part I don’t really want to write because yeah, I wake up to two Golden Retrievers, (heretofore referred to as “the Team”) both of whom would make the most responsible person consider calling in sick. Inevitably some of you are thinking, ugh dogs on a bed, how unsanitary** / how strange / good for her but not for me / is that why she’s always covered in fur? But yeah. It’s all true.
Yesterday morning was particularly disorganized for me and the team. This is despite my December 2012 Life Improvement of integrating the automatic coffee maker into my daily routine. Planning ahead? Never heard of it. When we clomp down the stairs together each morning, I announce that I made coffee in my sleep and we all get a good laugh. Then I announce, much to Levi’s chagrin, that I still have not figured out how to prepare kibble breakfast in my sleep, but I’ll keep working on it. It’s ok, he assures me, it’s about progress rather than perfection. (Wise dog, huh? No, he just repeats things he hears.)
Usually when we go outside en masse, we have a sense of each other’s space and we stay together, moving somewhat fluidly and efficiently. Other times, like yesterday, we bump into each other and the storm door, the leashes crisscross, one winding around my back while the other gets stuck under one of Grace’s or Levi’s legs in that awkward way. I’m usually impressed by the dogs’ ability to stay with each other, but like people at an exhibit, they naturally wander to different attractions. This requires me to employ arm flexibility, poise, and balance, three things I don’t naturally have in the afternoons, let alone pre-dawn.
Outside, they both greet the cold air with enthusiasm. Then they each pause, typically, for their own set of reasons, such as (and get off my case as my tense shifts***):
Levi hears a noise in the distance and stops short just off the steps. He presses the side of his face against my sweatpanted thigh, assessing the possible danger. He has no problem holding still with a full bladder, ears up in that funny dog-listenening way, willing to be still a few moments longer if it means his continued safety. Grace is not interested in cuddling against my leg or philosophical musings: she is all about the business of taking care of business. Her middle-aged dog lady attitude includes no shame or second thoughts about doing what needs to be done.
Yet while Grace has always been the more pragmatic of the two, mornings are still uncomfortable: for her to step off the dry path into cold wet grass is much like myself, moments earlier at 5:40AM, hesitating to embrace the inevitable move from horizontal to vertical. More often than I’d like to admit, I indulge in the lazy torture that is the snooze button. Grace’s reliance on patterns and instinct break her hesitation after only a couple seconds, and she is free (and relieved, thankyouverymuch).
I assure Levi that frightening sound is just a truck, far away, and encourage him to focus on the matter at hand. Grace’s example of placing necessity above comfort does not convince Levi, so I gently push him towards the grass, but as usual, my hands touching him are like a Velcro invitation for him to only continue contact with me. The three of us walk further onto the front yard, Levi concentrating on the nearby street. Since our fence fell down in October, the dogs have been more easily agitated or excited by anything and everything that passes us by. When people find out where I live these days they say “Oh yes, I know that house! I stare at it each day while I sit in traffic at the light.” Yes, I know you do. I wish you didn’t.
Sometimes we dawdle, but I mostly know better. Finally back inside, Levi can barely wait for the release of the leash clasp to launch himself running in the direction of breakfast. Grace sits for me and waits to be released, more sensitive and fearful of such phenomenons as “leash whiplash” or “anything falling towards her head.” As I close the front door, Levi is stretching and flipping an empty bowl over, smiling. Grace tiptoes towards the kitchen, looking out for flying bowls.
I turn on the radio and pour myself of cup of preplanned coffee. I’m careful not to get all self-congratulatory as I sort through my next half hour’s to-remember list. I feel two sets of eyes on me, and, turning my back to them, I hear a reminder bowl flip over, still empty. If I make them wait too long, Levi will become utterly dramatic and sad, and will place some body part of his in the bowl, to show me how empty it is (see extremely sad photo, below).
I try not to make them wait too long but man, he’s funny.
By the time I leave the house at 6:30, the whole team has moved into phase two of the day. Since it’s still dark out, Miss Grace can’t see her squirrels out the corner windows, so she parks herself at the top of the stairs. Levi finds a place on the couch and pouts at me for having the gall to leave for work yet again. I remind him he’s damn lucky I work so hard so he can live this kibblegilded lifestyle of happiness and hugs.
I somewhat obsessively yell goodbyes to them, telling them (…they’re DOGS…) when I’ll be home, please keep four on the floor, don’t eat anything that isn’t food, and please don’t go in the cabinets LEVI. And they, being dogs, tolerate and kind of ignore me. I bet they wonder what I’m saying each day, but they probably know, that whatever blabber I’m blabbering makes me happy, and they are glad for that.
I run to my car, grateful.
*Who am I kidding? It’ll be four years ago this early spring. I don’t forget dates, generally. If I do, I think something is wrong. I do find it harder to subtract numbers from odd numbers, so I’ll have a math challenge ahead of me all year, as I struggle with such puzzlers as 2013 minus 2007. Anyway. This writing topic first came up in 2009. I began to write about it then, when I had only one dog, lived not alone, had the two houses, but only lived in two rooms of one of them. Now I have two dogs, no partner in crime, still two houses, but I live in one entire house. Almost. And I am working more on things like finishing what I start. More often than not.
** Please let this be the first and last time I use any form of “sanitary” in this blog. I get the heebie jeebies just hearing that word. Writing it is as gross as hearing it. Moving on…
***”Do as I say, not as I do,” kids.