What follows might not have a thing to do with the flu. I can’t be sure and since I can’t, I am going to suggest, if you get the flu, keep the dogs outside. It might save your sanity. In lieu of that option, just don’t get the flu! During the siege, I lay beneath my counterpane contemplating what a miserable spy I would make: I can’t stand pain. My canine housemates attempted to distract me from the double-barrel suffering of the flu and an almost weeklong dearth of electricity, thanks to the recent windstorm.
As his custom dictates, my Great Dane Hagar will take up a position on Hub’s side of the bed whenever possible. That habit took less than a minute to acquire and, I suspect, will last the rest of his life. Cold, I attempted to pull the covers—his perfect storm of feathers, bedspread, and sheets—out from under him. The big lummox pressed down with all 160 pounds of himself. The effort to retrieve my covers left me panting too weary to do anything other than give up the fight.
Hagar’s sister Sophie suddenly appeared from around the corner and shouted, “Get up! It’s time for a walk!” I was sure my fever had returned. I do believe dogs are capable of communicating their desires beyond just scratching at the door and whining. In the past, I have laughed at the clarity of her requests. When Sophie turns her golden-hued, slightly crossed eyes on me with the intensity of a nuclear bomb blast to convey her desire to either A: eat or B: walk, the translation is simple and always depends on the time of day.
This was a whole different kind of communication. The possibility that my dog was speaking words, like any sane human, I dismissed. The thermometer dispelled any excuse I might have used—98.6 on the nose—for what I thought I heard. Maybe I dreamt it? A few fitful tosses later I heard. “Come on. Let’s go for a w-a-l-k.”
With a herculean effort, I looked up from my pillow to see my merle girl smiling and doing her let’s-walk dance. Ok, maybe she didn’t say it. As if this additional piece of information clarified a thing, I reminded myself out loud, “Dogs definitely can’t spell.” Now nose to nose, Sophie looked down her four-inch black and gray speckled snout and asked, “Don’t you want to go?” I swear: as plain as her nose in my face.
My mind, addled by age and virus reasoned, Ha, I got her now. Her lips didn’t move. If she is talking to me, it’s telepathic—as if that were a more rational conclusion. Still unsure if I heard actual words, I asked the dog. “You didn’t just ask me to go for a walk, did you?” The only response I received was an overly eager gold glare and a subtle tap of nails on the wooden floor. Exhausted, I gave up my Doctor Doolittle moment, pulled the covers over my head, and fell into a troubled sleep.
A normal nighttime routine in our house is Hubs and one of the dogs watch television together on the sofa. Which dog is based not on a pecking order but on the time-honored tradition of firsts; after dinner jockeying for the prime entertainment position begins in earnest. Sophie loves to cuddle with Hubs, so she claims the spot early. Hagar, a creature tied to his comforts, decided along the way that losing the coveted berth left him with a decidedly bum deal. Curling up on the drafty floor, plushy dog bed, notwithstanding, did not suit his delicate sensibilities.
Boy dog had equated cold nights with digging into his spot on of the coach with the sticking power of crazy glue. His hunkering in commenced before dinner. No chance snack, it seemed was worth a frigid night of TV because he started to forgo joining us with his plaintive looks at the table. Little sis, meanwhile sat front in center in case a scrap might hit the floor unaware that her brother had outwitted her. His earlier-than-usual claim on the sofa forced Miss Dog to lie on her bed next to the stove. No chilly bed near the TV for this girl, but also no beloved cuddle with Hubs either.
At first, we dismissed the notion that Sophie was up to some nefarious something. It wasn’t until her actions began to form a distinct pattern, did it become impossible to deny. As winter wore on we watched, as she went to the door and asked to go out. When the door opened, she crossed the threshold barking as if a herd of deer had the audacity to lounge on the front steps. Hagar would leap off the sofa and race out with a cartoon-like which-way-did-they-go wobble of his head. Girly girl, already turned toward the door, hightailed it to the coveted seat. Some variation on this theme happened so many times, it was impossible not to conclude there was a whole lot of manipulating going on. After a while, Hagar became wise to the ruse.
Since her subterfuge had stopped producing the desired outcome, sly girl dog hatched a new plot with a new putz. Per usual, she approached the door and asked to go out. I, finally vertical, got up to oblige her. Once the door was opened, rather than go outside, she abruptly reversed direction and beat me back to my chair.
Maybe she really can talk, after all. Certainly, she’s a very clever canine.