New Hampshire Magazine / November 2014

BY REBECCA RULE | ILLUSTRATION BY BRAD FITZPATRICK

lastlaugh_nov2014-4a64b127Sleeping with three dogs is no walk in the park. On the best nights, we go to sleep and never stir until morning.OK. That never happens.The bed is king sized, two extra-long twins cobbled together. Guess who sleeps in the crack?

Me.

Actually, I sleep diagonally across the crack to accommodate the big dog at my feet, the terrier pressed to my back and the little one who sleeps on my head or thereabouts. My husband, ears plugged, sleeps on the recliner — unless the terrier gets there first and calls dibs.

The big dog snores. So does John. The dog snores low and snuffly. John’s a whistler. Together, they’re almost harmonic. The big dog sleeps with a toy between her paws. John doesn’t.

Some nights everything goes right along smooth. Other nights, not so much.

This night starts out fragrant. “Who did it?”  Nobody admits a thing.  “Dear god.” I pull the covers over my face for a filter.

We settle. I almost sleep. All peaceful, until the allergies kick in.

Not mine. Theirs.

The little one and the terrier are wicked allergic. One bite from one flea and the little one’s digging and scratching. The terrier chews on himself with lip-smacking enthusiasm. I snug a pillow over my exposed ear. Roll onto a marrow bone. Pull it out and fling it.

Need Zs. Breathe deep. Sleep . . .

The terrier chews so enthusiastically the bed vibrates. I reach for the bottle of spritz-with-aloe to soothe their itching bums. Get in a couple of good squirts before they  leap into darkness. They hate the spritz. The big one growls, snarls, snaps. “Nobody wants your toy,” I say. “It’s got no stuffing!” I pull the flat monkey from between her paws and wing it. She  gives chase.

Dogs gone. Sleep now.

One by one, they return to the bed.  Settle.

I listen to the grandmother clock ring the hour. The quarter hour. Half.

Flea on my neck! Or is it a hair? Itchy. Itchy. Itchy all over. Mind over matter.  Flea-no-more. Sleep.

John and the big dog snore. Musical. Restful. Requiem.

Outside, the screech of an owl. Are you kidding me?

The dogs rush to the window as one. They scare the owl away with their dreadful roars.

“You’re welcome,” they say. The big dog and the little dog return to the bed, satisfied. Time for sleep.

Eyes pop open. Nostrils flare. Mine.

All this excitement has stimulated the terrier’s gastrointestinal tract. “Clean up in aisle JOHN-ARE-YOU-AWAKE?”

John wakes and does his duty.

The terrier returns to bed. Relieved.

It’s 3 a.m. according to the grandmother clock.

The pack snuggles. Three dog night —warm and safe. I’m sleeping now. Pretty sure. The clock chimes 3:30.

A faint call from downstairs: “John?”  I must have dreamed it. Because I’m asleep. Then, “Beck. Beck! BECK.” I’m out of the bed, to the top of the stairs. Gazing up at me is the octogenarian who sleeps down below. I call her Ma.

“What’s wrong, Ma? What’s going on?”

She says, “You forgot to let the cat in.”