I admire people who wake up at the crack of dawn, let the dog out, and fall back to sleep for a few hours.
My friend Barbara says she can sometimes sleep after getting her young daughter on the bus in the morning. She even drifted off to 10 o’clock one morning, awakened only by the sound of her ringing phone.
But this isn’t me. Once I’m up and slugging down my first cup of coffee, I’m up for the day and raring to go, at least until I can grab an afternoon nap. I know industrious people like my older sister who hit the trail with her dog Susie at sunrise, but I prefer to write or watch Netflix comedy specials, movies or documentaries. Perhaps this is why she’s so slim and my pants are snug, but that’s a blog for another day.
Early morning is my special time, at least since children entered my life 22 years ago. As a freelance writer, I was often tasked with writing articles on deadline, an impossible feat with two young children yammering in my ear all day.
So with looming deadlines and limited childcare, I began to awaken at 5 a.m. to write, or “craft,” as my old editor John would say, realizing that’s when I’m most clear-headed and able to string together thoughts and sentences.
In the world of sleep vernacular, I’m an early bird or “lark” – someone who awakens early and performs best in the morning. The Curmudgeon is an “owl,” someone who relishes night hours. We’ve always had these tendencies, but our bird proclivities have become more extreme over the years.
Over the past few months, I’m ready to hit the sack at 9 p.m., while the Curmudgeon is laying out legal paperwork on our dining room table and digging into files well past midnight. This may explain why he sleeps to 7:30 most mornings, unable to roust himself from bed when I’ve already logged almost three hours of wakefulness.
As far as I can recall, he’s always been this way. When we were engaged, he joined us briefly on a family vacation to Hilton Head Island, S.C.. When he was still in bed at 9 a.m., my father surveyed the breakfast table and asked, “Where’s Steve? Doesn’t he ever wake up?”
There are exceptions to our nightly ritual, of course. Last night, we saw Jerry Seinfeld at an Indian casino about an hour from our house, and returned to watch the end of the President’s Cup golf tournament. After the United States pulled off a come from behind win, we went to bed around 12:30 a.m.
I hoped to do the impossible and sleep in, but was awakened by one of the worst sounds on earth: my sister’s Portuguese water dog whining at 6 a.m. The whining (or “squeaking” as my sister calls it) is akin to Chinese water torture, only worse. It’s like listening to a screaming baby who needs to be fed, changed and put down for a nap all at the same time.
I consider myself a nice person and a dog lover. One of my sisters has even called me a dog whisperer – an exaggeration if you ask me. But I can’t stand the sound of whining in the human or animal kingdom. All I want to do when I hear it is stop it as quickly as possible.
One of my worst periods as a mother was when my son began whining around age 3, but at least you can try to reason with a pre-schooler. “Use your words,” I’d plead, or “I can’t hear you when you whine.” But what do you say to a dog besides “STOP!” “Cut it out. I mean it!” or at my lowest point, “If you don’t stop it, I’m going to have to bring you home.”?
I’ve been watching my sister’s pup while she and her family are in New Mexico, where she’s receiving her doctorate in education. I’m very proud of her accomplishment, though I wish she’d invited me to tag along. Like any New Englander, I’d go anywhere to escape this climate for a few days, but it wasn’t in the cards. So I volunteered to watch her pooch.
The whining began at 6 and quickly reached an irritating and persistent crescendo, startling me out of a sound sleep. When it became clear that my pleas to stop were futile, I assumed she needed to be let out. I got up and opened the front door. But she didn’t need to do her business. She wanted to be fed, and whined until I ran into the pantry and got her kibble.
I wasn’t moving fast enough for her, so she continued to whine until I placed her bowl on the floor. Within about a minute, her food was devoured and I was officially up. So much for my fantasy of sleeping in.
I made myself a mug of coffee and settled onto the couch to watch a documentary on Netflix when I noticed the dog had disappeared. I went looking for her, finally finding her upstairs in bed snuggled next to the Curmudgeon. In addition to being a dog, it appears our furry house guest is an owl too.
I was happy for both dog and man, I really was. But let’s be clear: that should’ve been me in that bed.