I’ve had insomnia for years. Our old German Shepherd dog, Ernie, has perhaps learned this. He certainly monitors me closely enough.
He no longer merely approaches me during the early hours, between 2 and 4 a.m., but he has devised signals to roust me. Including scratching vigorously enough to rattle his collar. More recently, he has taken to smacking his lips.
I know, you wouldn’t think it would be that loud, would you? But just try and get back to sleep in the quiet, dead of night with a big dog going smack, smack, smack.
I don’t particularly want to get out of bed, but I want even less to have to deal with the messes an incontinent 11-year-old dog can leave for us. Right, I know, take him outside the last thing before going to sleep, yeah? Oh, with enough coaxing, he’ll follow along and limp outside after me, all right. And then just look at me, wagging, like, what’s next, big guy?
It’s tough to know what’s happening inside that little doggie cranium, but sometimes I swear that he’s thinking wait, if I went now, what would happen to our walkabout for the wee hours?
So now I’m downstairs, where Molly, our little old lady cat rescued from an antique store after her prior owner died, has learned that I know the food trick. So she follows me about in the dim light. I have to shuffle around downstairs, or risk kicking her. She’s about 18 or 19, we think, so it would be like kicking your great-grandmother.
She’s only barely more stable. Her left hind leg is nearly useless now. She limps along, never stepping down on it anymore. Every so often she manages to get underfoot and I stumble when my foot nudges her. Kicking a little old lady cat–this guilt I do not need.
So after I get Ernie outside and then back up the steps (I often help out by J-hooking a forearm under his belly to help haul him up the steps), I then go down into the garage with the cat to knife out a third of a tin of cat food for her.
If I’m quick back up the steps, I can get a few things done before having to use the shuffle steps again. Like maybe filing the dog’s water bowls (which recently have become Molly’s favorite watering holes). Or maybe stuffing a pill pocket with Ernie’s meds, so hopefully he can move around more easily when the day formally begins.
Sometimes I can even make time to sit down on the john myself. Maybe two thirds of the time I’m able to go back upstairs and get to sleep again. Otherwise, I read. And try not to be too cranky about it.
He’s an old dog, and she’s an old cat, and I try to remember that they are family, and entirely dependent on us. As much as taking care of them can be a nuisance, I prefer this over the day when they will no longer be here to need our help at all.