Life on the night shift
By Beth MacDonald
My husband, Mason, volunteered to build a new shelter for animals at a county facility occupied by a particularly adorable, needy shepherd mix. Every day he’d show up, “Adorable” would playfully beg him for attention. He sent pictures via text message to our daughter and me that, when opened, played that Sarah McLaughlin song “In the Arms of the Angels.” Our daughter took one look and said, “Bleeding hearts unite!” I wanted to know more.
Her adoption ad read like this: “This cutie-pie loves long walks, playing tug of war, ‘Dungeons & Dragons,’ and other games like ‘Drop My Shoe.’ She eats everything she sees; rocks are her favorite snack. She’s definitely the type of dog that will get her head stuck in a banister. Her best friends are the worms and parasites that infest her. Her favorite color is white to match the contamination suits you’ll be getting if you take this lovable, good-natured heartbreaker home!”
Welcome to the family!
The newest member of the Mac Pack needed a name. We figured we’d wait a few days to see what her personality was like, and how she interacted with our other dogs, before committing to some boring name that had to do with her coloring. The first few hours alone with her produced some good front-runners such as Nononononooooo, Wheresmyshoe, and Yougottapeeoutside (which sounds French if you say it fast with the accent on the last two syllables). By our second visit to the vet for her bi-weekly checkup, I was so exhausted from “puppy watch” that when they asked to confirm her coloring was black and tan I said, “Yes, please. And hurry.” I thought they were offering me a drink. We almost named her Stout.
Like our other two dogs, we decided to crate train her to help with housebreaking. The older dogs have been out of their crates and managing the house for years. They do most of the cooking, cleaning and handle the bills, thanks to the trusty crate. House training the first week became “a thing,” as Mason says. We all agreed to shifts watching the dog — actively, not passively — to keep the house and yard clean, given her best friend infestation. I had first shift; Mason took the late shift.
The first night in her crate the puppy sang the song of its people all night long. We tried our best to ignore it, but even our oldest dog barked a harsh, “Silence! We sleep at night!” a few times. At 3:33 a.m. (I checked the clock to validate my self-pity), I gave up and let her out. She wasn’t interested in going to the bathroom outside. She much preferred the hardwood floor toilet. I took her outside anyway, but she only wanted to play with all the horrors lurking in the dark. Great! Me too!
I started brewing my coffee once I got back inside. I was up for the day. My oldest dog sat at my feet and asked for a light roast. Before 5:00 a.m. we covered several training modules such as “Appropriate Chew Toy Replacement,” “The Meaning of the Word No,” “No Means No,” “No Really Means No,” “Down,” “Drop My Shoe,” “How About You Eat Dad’s Camouflage Crocs,” “How to Properly Disinfect a House Before Consuming Coffee,” “Land Navigation for Dog Poo Deep in the Bushes Sans Flashlight,” and we completed 30 minutes of cardio doing laps around the living and dining rooms trying to get my shoes back.
By the end of the first week we realized we were just night shift jailhouse guards. The puppy had begun her set of auditions for her career as a blues singer the minute we put her to bed. The oldest dog asked me to put on some PBS programming to drown her out until her voice coach could get her on par with Etta James. I started to Google life hacks for keeping your eyes open when sleep deprived. Mason chimed in with his Ranger school advice and suggested a Copenhagen dip or toothpicks in my eyelids.
After a few weeks she settled into a nightly routine doing a 30-minute set of her favorite prison songs before finally letting us sleep. Most days she was up by 3:30 a.m. trying for her own Shawshank Redemption. After removing a poster of Raquel Welch and a worn-out bone fashioned into a hammer, I began the shuffle to get her outside before she had an accident. One night it was raining. I put her down, looked at the sky, and wondered whether the real Andy Dufresne was Tim Robbins or me and when I’d be free from the first shift. PS
Beth MacDonald is a Southern Pines suburban misadventurer who likes to make words up. She loves to travel with her family and read everything she can.