Saturday, May 10, 2014

Twelve Dogs & An Earthquake

6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and you guys want to get UP—seriously?

Alaska, the land of the midnight sun— May 9th and the sun is up at 4:00 a.m. as the days continue to get longer, gaining about 5 minutes of daylight per day. What does that mean for a dogsitter? Dogs are up and roaming the house before I even open my eyes, that’s what.

Today it was around 5 when I told them to lie down and go back to sleep, without much luck. The three big dogs managed to keep quiet but RockDog, my English cocker was excited and wanted me up. He was pawing at my hair, licking my face and stepping on my torso in an attempt to wake me up. I tried lying quietly, pretending sleep but he wasn’t buying it. I wrestled with him for about 45 minutes, careful not to wake the elderly dogs. Finally at 6:05 I threw back the covers and said: “Okay, I’m up already.” Barely able to get my eyes open enough to find my glasses, I struggled through the crowd of eight anxious canines, to get into the walk-in closet for a sweater. The temperatures are still dropping to about 45 degrees at night, and back up in the 60’s as the sun warms up.

Down the stairs we come as the dogs race to the back door. I reach over and open it and eight dogs pushing and shoving for position, fly out. I then open the crate so the St. Bernard puppy can go out on the front deck. She is not inclined to run with the big dogs yet although she is quickly becoming one herself.  I swear she is growing daily, before my very eyes. 

Thankfully, Luce my 16-year-old cocker and her son, 15-year-old Woody were able to sleep through all the commotion. Back up to the loft to bring the dog beds downstairs for the day. Squeezing in time for a quick pee before beginning the routine that defines me as a dogsitter for yet another day.

In the kitchen measuring the oatmeal I notice a few of the dogs are ready to come back in the house. After they are settled I scan the crowd to see who is still missing—Anne, my mischievous little cocker. She is always the last dog in. I pick up the treat jar, step onto the deck, open the lid and, “Who Let The Dogs Out” rings out into the morning stillness. I’m sure my neighbors love me for this. When I still don’t see Anne, I close and reopen the dog’s head on the treat jar and, “You Ain’t Nothing But a Hounddog” sings out to her. When she doesn’t respond right away I know she is out of hearing range—not a good sign. She’s probably down the street at the neighbor’s compost pile, AGAIN. Okay, so she will come when she comes.

Back to the stove to put the oatmeal on, I hear a loud, eerie noise that sounds like the wind, but not quite. The dogs begin barking just as I recognize what it means. The house begins slowly shaking, building momentum—the dogs are barking, lamps are swinging and I freeze in space, holding the oatmeal spoon in my left hand. A few seconds and it is over, with no apparent damage. Earthquakes are a normal occurrence in Alaska, but this one visibly shook the entire house, not just the floor. Wheeew! Back to the business at hand, making the oatmeal, then my coffee, and finding Anne. She’s still not back.

I turn the oatmeal burner off, but leave the coffee on as I grab my shoes and run to the car to go look for the silly girl. I drive to the compost sight down the street sure to find her there, but no Anne. That is weird, where can she be? Back to a house full of excited, barking dogs where I grab the treat jar and return to the car. Driving slowly through the neighborhood with the windows down, I raise the head of the treat jar dog so the tunes sing out again and again, into the stillness where my neighbors are no doubt trying to sleep.

Still no Banane, and I desperately need my first cup of coffee. WTF? Back home, again greeted by over-the-top dancing and yelping dogs, acting like I have been gone for hours! When I open the front door, it hits me. I don’t think I even saw that blonde wigglebutt fly out the door. I retraced my steps and remembered getting my sweater out of the closet. She’s so nosy that she probably followed me in there sniffing through my shoes. After running through the neighborhood like a crazy woman twice, I am now sure that’s where she must be. She never makes a sound when she gets locks in. Just sits and patiently waits for me to eventually realize where she is.

Returning to the loft I am met by LucGoose and immediately know what that means. At 16-l/2-years-old, she can no longer get downstairs on her own, or hold her bladder for long. I pick her up giving her a morning hug, feeling gratitude for yet another day with my sweet girl. And sure enough, there is a puddle of pee and another brown treasure waiting for me on the floor. I’ll get to that later, but first I open the closet door to find the missing link, looking up at me with two big brown eyes wondering why I have been calling her name, and teasing her with the sound of the treat jar. She prances around my legs letting me know that she really has to go outside, like Now! We rush downstairs and she is out the door in a flash. With the repetitive sound of the treat jar tunes fresh in her mind, Anne doesn’t linger long. She empties her bladder and immediately runs to the door in anticipation of the Yummy Chummie that awaits her.

This is too much activity at 6 a.m., but it is my life. Some days are quieter than others. It is now 6:40 a.m. and I need coffee, albeit Decaf. The oatmeal is cooked and all dogs are back to sleep as I sit here writing about the start of my day. NPR just reported the earthquake—6:16 a.m. 5.5 magnitude on the Richter scale, 35 miles from Homer, aftershocks expected throughout the day.

The oatmeal is cooling, potty breaks are over and all 10 dogs are laid out asleep throughout the living area. WoodBoy and DoDog are snoring loudly from my bed in the loft. These two could care less if the sun is up or not; they sleep until at least 8 every morning.

A cup of French Decaf is ready, and my spot on the couch is empty and waiting for me. I curl up with a novel, next to RockDog.  I can relax for another hour until breakfast and then the second part of the day begins with 12 happy dogs. There is never a dull moment at Tails-By-The-Bay Dog Camp, and I love every minute of it. Even the earthquakes! What better way to feel Alive—bouncing dogs and a powerful jolt—first thing in the morning?

Woof! Woof!