ABOUT LAST NIGHT
At 1:23 am Pacific Standard Time, I awoke to strange noises coming from downstairs. I had not been sleeping particularly well; I tried to stay-up for the ice dancing medal ceremony to hear the anthem and the television sleep timer turning-off actually woke me up and put me into an uneasy state of semi-conscientiousness. The sounds coming from down the stairway were not the regular sounds of our house- pets on a late-night bender, a kid wondering to the restroom, the usual. It was more like the sound of someone working on something, be it a door or other object. I instinctively rose to my feet, slid into my camouflaged house shoes, and assessed the situation before moving out.
My dad was an Army veteran that served in Viet Nam and later as an undercover Army Intelligence agent in West Germany and back in the States. Needless to say, he was a self-proclaimed expert in home defense, a skill and paranoia that he passed down to his eldest son. With a potential intruder waiting below, I prepared my angle of approach, method of attack, thought about lines of fire, defensible positions, hand-to-hand scenarios, etc. By 1:25 am, my plan was formulated and I mobilized.
Surprisingly, I was able to navigate our unfinished staircase fairly quietly for a man of my size. My biggest concern was that the “intruder” had entered through the front door and was sitting in the front living room, watching me work my way down the stairs, totally exposed. Having survived that concern (making a mental note for next time), I scanned the family room below me and to my left and did not see any movement in the shadows. That left two places for my target to be standing, and based upon the noise coming from the kitchen, it was obvious where this intruder was lurking and what he was up to.
There is a distinct noise that the bone of a baby back rib makes in the mouth of a Labrador Retriever. It is unlike the noise of a beef bone, or a raw hide chew, or anything else that he will eat. It is a hollow sound, the sound of the bone being wallowed-around in his enormous mouth since he can fit the whole thing in there at once, unlike the other bones. As I rounded the corner into the kitchen, this sound became obvious (having owned two Labs for a combined total of 16 of my almost 19 married years) and I let my guard down for the first time. I noticed the clock on the oven read 1:27 am as I turned-on the kitchen light, my relief at it only being Rocky turning to rage at myself for not taking the trash out before I went to bed and the mess that the Chocolate idiot had made all over the kitchen floor!
The scruff on the back of a large dog’s neck makes for a convenient handle for escorting his sorry tail out the back door. Assisted by a gentle kick from my right foot, he fled into the night, only to come tearing back towards me with a playful grin on his face. He twirled around a couple times, rolled onto his back, and wagged his tail like he was sweeping the patio, begging me to rub his belly. Instead, he got an earful; the type of earful generally reserved for a player that fumbles the football or misses a tackle. Impervious to my rage, he just rolled too-and-fro, waiting for a scratch that never came. I went back inside, swept the floor, cleaned-up a couple spots of dog drool and looked outside. He was sitting-up now, and I offered him the opportunity to come back inside. Nope. I’m going to stay outside, I’m going to wait until you are comfortably in bed, then I will bark and raise hell out here. Go ahead, dad, head on back upstairs…
Lying motionless in bed, I waited for the inevitable for nearly 45 minutes before succumbing to light sleep at approximately 2:30 am. By 2:38 am, my son wondered into our bed. Awake again, but not for long. “The Bark” came at around 3:15 am, but it wasn’t much, just a single bark, letting me know that he hadn’t forgotten about me. I waited 10-15 minutes for the next one, the “let me in” bark, which never came. Finally, I drifted-off to sleep.
By 5:40 am, he was running wind sprints in an east-west direction, barking at the neighbor’s yapping puppies on both sides of us that had undoubtedly been let out for the morning to take care of their business. As I marched down the stairs (again), I smelled the coffee pot that had just started and walked towards the back door. There he was, sitting regally next to the neighbor’s fence, posing like a prized hunting dog, watching vigilantly over his domain, waiting for the neighbor to the east’s dog to stick his nose through the fence. Protecting his pack from the intruder. He looked at me when I opened the door like, “look at me dad, I’m doing a good job!” I gave him a short whistle and a “good boy” as he ran into the house, straight up the stairs, and onto my spot in bed. Seriously. After all that, he took my spot. Thank the good Lord for that handle on the back of his neck!
Don’t talk to me today unless you absolutely have to. It was a long, hard night. I’m not in a good mood. But I can probably find you a good deal on a slightly-used Chocolate lab.