Sometimes at night, the small dog will trot to the bedside. Stomping her toenails on the wood floor and breathing extra-loud, she'll roust us for a trip outside. She's subtle but insistent. If we don't react, she snorts. Ignored long enough, she might escalate to a stagey sneeze or two, the castanets of her feet going double-time. Bless her heart, I remind myself as I swing my feet onto the chilly floor, better she wake us than leave an accidental present on the carpet.
When she descends the stairs under her own steam, Lilly's outsized Boston-Terrier head makes the process tragic and funny. It goes like this: one step, two steps, hop hop, things speed up -- the teeter-totter tips -- and she tumbles down the last few steps. She regains her feet after this noisy disaster with only a brief, wincing look of confusion, but I can't shake the idea that she'll break something falling that way.
So now, I sit on the top stair while she clambers into my lap and I convey this grunting sausage-roll of dog in my arms to the lawn. She's also perfectly amenable to being carried in a canvas ice-bag, like a fat-eyed load of firewood. When encouraged, she'll step over the folded side of the bag, ignoring the indignity of having her narrow butt tucked into place, and wait, frozen, blinking, enfolded in stout fabric, until back on solid ground.
She loses track, from time to time, of what she meant to do on the lawn. Standing motionless under a big moon, she seems to be sleeping with her buggy eyes wide open. Urged to "be a good dog," she snaps out of it, giving me an apologetic look before attending to the chore.
Told that she is being "a good dog," she flattens her ears at me, even while she balances on three legs. As soon as she can, she speeds away from the scene and back to my feet.
Sometimes she'll pause at the bottom of the steps and give me a look. Perhaps she's hoping for a boost.
"Hup, simba," I tell her (the words a reference, I should be ashamed to admit, from Tarzan cartoons, not David Foster Wallace). And up she hops, occasionally missing her footing but steadily ratcheting her way up the stairs and then bee-lining it back to her dog-bed.
In daylight, a treat is the normal reward for "being a good dog," but I learned my lesson the first week she slept under our roof: do not reward her midnight runs with dog-biscuits or else she will be at it non-stop -- sneezing and clacking her repeated demands for midnight runs and dog-biscuits. Even a good dog can be trained into a tiny tyrant.
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