I’ve been spending a lot of time with our dog lately. Her name is Sadie, and she’s somewhere in the 10-year-old range (we got her as a rescue years ago, so we really don’t know exactly when she was born). She’s now blind (has been for a couple of years) but otherwise healthy. She is, and always has been, a calm, quiet, extremely friendly little gal.
Sadie and I have been together a lot lately 1) because I’ve been working primarily from home the past few months and 2) because Sadie has developed a habit of waking up very early. Like 4:30 a.m. early. And, when she does, she’s wide awake and restless, which in turn wakes me up and makes me wide awake and restless too. And when we’re both wide awake restless, it’s best if we just get up and start our day, no matter the hour.
That means early breakfasts for her, coffee for me and pre-dawn walks for both of us. Some mornings – correction, just about every morning – when Sadie wakes up at an hour too early for both human and beast, I silently plead for her to go back to sleep, closing my eyes tightly, trying not to notice this animal bumping into things and rolling around on the floor.
Sometimes, she does, but more often than not, continues wandering around the room walking and rolling around until I get up. And if I stall long enough, she’ll give one short, loud bark to seal the deal, a bark that at that time of day sounds 100 times louder than it would after the rest of the world awakens.
At some point during this ritual, I’ll relent, realizing that I can’t will her – or myself -- back to sleep, and I’ll get out of bed and head downstairs, the dog at my side. This has been going on for several months, and at first, it bothered me, not only because she was getting up too early even for someone like me, who is traditionally an early riser, but more because I didn’t have control over the situation. The dog, this little, friendly, blind, usually quiet mutt terrier held all the coins, and it pissed me off. (We could go into a long discussion about how I contributed to this behavior by letting her get her way, etc., but let’s not.)
But several weeks ago, I decided to stop trying to figure out why this animal, who sleeps about 18 hours a day, has chosen the 4:00 a.m. hour to get things started. And I also decided to stop getting frustrated about it. I decided instead to roll with it.
Since I have, my days have started off better. I feel more patient and content, albeit somewhat “sleep-cheated.” (I don’t like the term “sleep-deprived.”) I’ve accepted that this is our new routine and have come to enjoy our early morning walks. They allow me to get my brain started and to observe things that might otherwise pass me by, things like the following, which I experienced yesterday as Sadie and I strolled through the neighborhood at 4:38 a.m.
I was walking the dog early Sunday. It was still dark. Peaceful. The air was cold but crisp, making my face feel tight. A light breeze pulled Sadie’s ears back as she felt her way down the snowy street, and I guided her toward bare spots and away from ice patches and clumps of frozen slush left by cars the day before.
It was so quiet, just a guy and his dog walking in the dark with no one else around. Not my first choice of activities at that time on a Sunday morning, but not bad either.
After we strolled the neighborhood for 15 or 20 minutes, Sadie had sniffed all the usual spots and did her “business” (1 + 2 = success! If you own a dog, you know what that means), we turned the corner toward home.
As we approached the house, and I looked at the place where we’ve lived for nearly 20 years, and I was reminded of how quickly time passes. On Saturday, Joan and I took down our holiday decorations. Since Thanksgiving weekend, they had been up, inviting everyone passing by or stopping at the house to celebrate and honor that special time of year. We don’t go overboard with decorations, just some lights and a few seasonal elements to brighten up the front porch.
But Sunday, the lights and decorations were gone, taken down and stashed in the basement until next year, and the tree had been thrown onto the curb, awaiting its fate at the hands of a village worker who would scoop it up sometime in the coming days. And with that, the holidays had ended. I wasn’t sad about it, just thoughtful because it made me remember that day, weeks ago, when we put up that tree in our living room and decorated it with the kids, a tradition we’ve built over the years, but one that may someday – maybe too soon for us old “dogs” – come to an end as the kids go on with their own lives.
At that moment, as Sadie and I approached our front door, Thanksgiving weekend seemed like yesterday. And then, all the other holiday seasons that led up to it all those years seemed like yesterday too. And that made me think about time, and how rare, precious and fleeting it is, and with it, the millions of special moments we experience throughout our lives.
Moments that come and go, but memories that last forever.
And all that, all those thoughts that flooded into my head within seconds, made me think about how I can and should respect and value my time – and others’ – as I keep walking through the neighborhood that is my life.
Because much like Sadie’s life – which I’ve been told speeds along seven times faster than mine -- our time, and our lives, go by in a flash if we don’t take moments every day to think, to appreciate and to just “be.”
Time is constant, it ticks at the same rate every day, every month, every week, every day, every hour, every minute, every second. But in our minds and in our souls, our time moves at a very different pace. This morning, I’m on the road, out of town on business. But I woke up at 4:00 a.m., not to scratching or the sound of something going “bump” in the dark, but to silence.
I wonder if Sadie’s up.
© 2020 David R. Haznaw