Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Midnight Gift

There I was again, up and outside with an unsettled dog.  The Big Dog is subtle and patient when he wants out during the day, often sitting nearby and looking at me, or perhaps being more affectionate than usual.  It took us awhile to learn his cues (luckily he can hold it for a long time).

When the Big Dog came to live with us he was already five years old, if not older.  His understanding of the English language was poor; so poor that we looked up commands in German wondering if he'd been trained in that language.  (Nein, he hadn't been.)  I remember the excitement we all felt the first time he responded to the word potty by running to the door.  Over time he learned more English and along with potty he seems to understand Mama, Papa, bone, water, and ball, plus his basic commands of sit, down, stay, heel, come, waitno, and okay.  Unfortunately, he either fails to understand the word quiet or else he chooses to ignore it.  His vocabulary is smaller than the Girl Dog's was, but we'd lived with her since she was a puppy and she spent twelve years learning with us.  She was practically telepathic.

At night the Big Dog is a little more insistent when he wants out; it is rather unsettling to have a large dog at the level of my head staring me down intently.  Sometimes I will tell him to GO SEE PAPA, and he will trot over to that side of the bed and stare at Papa, but I know that once Papa is in bed I am the one who will most likely get up with a dog.  Big Dog knows it too; after a few seconds of directing his gaze at Papa he will trot back over to me and resume the staring, occasionally glancing at the door and willing me to understand.  At this point I try to get him to SETTLE DOWN which works sometimes, but not this time.

Out of bed I climbed, on went my sandals and sweater, and together we padded down the hall, Big Dog turning in circles (he is still completely over the moon when I understand Dog).  I slipped the leash over his head and we stepped into the cool of midnight.

This story really isn't about a dog needing to go potty and a human taking him out.  He actually didn't go, he just sniffed at the grass and air.  Then I heard it, a sound I'd been catching in the bedroom but not taking conscious notice of.

Whoo ... whoo ...


Whoo ... whoo ...

The owl was nearly on top of me, clearly up in the larger of our Coast Redwood trees.  While I have seen an owl up close I have never had one serenade me at such close proximity.

Whoo ... whoo ...

he said, and I was mesmerized.  We stood out there, Big Dog and I, listening to the owl in the cool of the evening for at least ten minutes.

We went in.  I tried to tell Papa how amazing it was, to get him to come outside, but he was snug and warm and wanted to stay in.  Within 30 minutes the owl moved on, but he had already shared his gift with me, one that lingers and still brings a smile to my face.

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