I don’t mean that she’s unusual – all dogs are neurotic about something. My brother’s dog can stare at a wall for hours, expending an incredible amount of concentration, as long as there are (or have been in the last few hours) shadow or lights on the wall. My aunt once had a dog that would go into a frenzy anytime it walked past a manhole cover, and another that would bark at venetian blinds. Dogs are crazy. For Clover, its night time.
Basically, once we turn off the light, Clover becomes pretty anxious. If we leave the dog door open, she will immediately go outside for awhile, and once she becomes cold, she’ll poke her nose over and over at the magnetic flap and whine for what feels like forever from the vantage point of my warm bed. If I get fed up and go to the ‘people door’ and try to call her inside, she will run away from me into the yard.
So we lock the dog door now before we turn out the lights, and that seems to help. Sometimes I think it’s a separation anxiety thing, since I know she hates being separated from us, and for awhile she really did want to sleep on our bed, but we draw the line there. She even used to come next to my side of the bed at ungodly hours in the morning and whine softly. This was when I was getting up in the middle of the night to feed and change Josie, so it wasn’t so welcome. Separation anxiety doesn’t explain why she would run outside though and not come inside.
Lately though, she’s been better. And I do know why – though she doesn’t know that I know why. One night, a few months back, as Sarah and I lay in the bed theorizing why Clover is the way she is, we heard the distinctive sound of someone jumping up onto the couch. There are only two of- limits places in the house: the bed and the couch. We agreed to ‘let’ her sleep there, if it made her feel better, and indeed it seems to.
So now when Josephine wakes up at 4:00am needing a diaper change, like she did last night, I walk past the couch and pretend I don’t see an alert little black furball watching to see if I see her in the darkness. If I don’t acknowledge the transgression, I don’t lose any face as her pack leader, and she sleeps better.
Only when I realized this last point, did it occur to me that this same scenario likely played out when I was a teenager sneaking out of the house. Like me, my Dad has bat-like hearing, and sleeps very lightly. I always patted myself on my back when I finally tiptoed out the door and ever so slowly clicked the front door’s lockset back into place. Being the good kid he raised, he probably realized I wouldn’t go get into trouble. As I crept down the stairs outside his room, invariably forgetting the order of which ones squeaked, he probably woke up, listened, and let me go. If he had caught me, he’d have to lay down some serious late-night law, while acknowledging his rules’ waning power over me. But if he let me go, he knew that I would greet him in the morning ostensibly as my pack leader for at least a little while longer before I headed off to college.
I, on the other hand, had a girl, and I know what motivates boys to sneak out of their parents houses most of the time, so you better believe that I will be reciting Josie’s full name in my most scratchy and intimidating Dad voice if I ever catch her on the stairs at 2 am. Worse, if she ever has the gall to invite a boy over, I’ll be using the same line on her as I have to now when I know Clover sees me seeing her:
“Hey! You – off the couch!”