If you own a dog -- or ever have -- chances are you've been awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of rhythmic, hoarse dry heaving coming from some dark corner of your bedroom. It can only mean one thing: Imminent dog vomit.
The reaction is universal -- owner springs out of bed, blankets and pillows flying. . . stampedes out of the bedroom with his/her canine companion. The mission: To find the closest noncarpeted part of the house, STAT!
Inevitably, the mission fails -- and owner is faced with 20 minutes' worth of wrestling with rubber gloves, warm water, paper towels and Resolve in the wee small hours of the night. Previously hurling pup stands by. . . sheepish, relieved -- or asleep. Or all of the above.
Wednesday I invested some Christmas present money into a sumptuous "bed jacket" (actually a short luxuriously warm bathrobe) that I intend to use to take reading-in-bed-at-night-in-an-unheated-bedroom (a whole other story) to the next level. My strategy exceeded beyond all expectations, and so I found myself still reading at 11 p.m. that night.
Brad was sleeping soundly -- Ben, our dog, comfortably (or so I thought) curlicued on his bed. It was beginning to occur to me that I did, after all, have to get up at 6 a.m. . . . when the dog stirred, stood up, stared at the rug -- and at me.
He walked slowly over to my side of the bed -- and pressed himself as close to the bed and nightstand as he could. Then, with ears at half-mast, he deferentially put one slim paw on my thigh.
I've been through 7 1/2 years of windy nights and loud voices with Ben -- and I know what this means. Benxiety attack.
Leaving his paw on my leg, Ben gravely looked sideways toward the bedroom door. I'm not stupid. Years of watching "Lassie" on TV as a kid finely honed my ability to decipher canine communication in all forms.
"Do you want to go downstairs, Ben?"
He padded, slowly but purposefully, toward the door and started down the stairs, me bringing up the rear in my splendid new robe. From the living room, Ben headed into the kitchen, still slowly and purposefully, and stopped at the back door. He looked at me.
"Do you need to go outside, Benster?"
He blinked once and looked back at the door with a faint sigh. I can take a hint.
I opened the door and let him out onto the still, dark, frosty lawn near the back porch. The night air was piercing as I stood at the door sill. I was glad I had my uber bathrobe wrapped around me.
Ben circled around the area meditatively for a few seconds, put his head down -- and proceeded to puke. When he was done, he looked up at me as if to say, "Now THAT went well, didn't it?"
We stood there for a couple minutes more, Ben raising his head to catch some noctural scent in the breeze, me simply admiring our dog who shimmered as the back porch light bounced off his silver fur.
The spell was broken when Ben hawked up one final loogie of grass and god knows what else. Giving it a perfunctory sniff, he turned toward the house, ready to come back in.
We silently climbed the stairs and I crawled into bed, patting the end of the bed for Ben. He hopped up and assumed his normal nighttime position between Brad and me, squirming a little to get it just right. This was followed by a contented, guttural "Ummmmmmm," and Ben fell asleep.
I lay in bed, awake. Some people have smart dogs, beautiful dogs, athletic dogs, goofy dogs, heroic dogs, theatric dogs. Ben is all these. And more.