Iím not a morning person. Never have been.
While some people prefer to get up with ó or even before ó the chickens, my preference has always been to get up long after those noisy little devils have shut their little beaks and settled in the shade somewhere.
Lately, Iíve been forced to change my routine, thanks to the addition of two four-legged beasts to the household.
You see, Iíve been dogsitting for the past week while their owner went on vacation.
For the uninitiated, that means having to operate on their schedule. For me, that means getting up long before I ever like to.
Early mornings, early for me anyway, offer a whole different set of sounds, ones that Iíve come to enjoy.
Once I wake up, either to the sound of my alarm or to the insistent whining of a doggie bladder about to burst, I stumble through the house on my way to unleash the beasts.
ďGood morning, puppies! Good morning! You want to go outside? Yes, you do! Oh, right now? Immediately, you say?Ē
I force myself to be cheerful because they seem to like it better. Iím then treated to the clatter of canine nail on the hardwood, scrabbling for purchase as they make a mad dash to the back door. The younger one charges out immediately, while his older sister gives me a look, seeming to ask, ďYou OK, mister?Ē before hurtling through the portal and taking a flying leap off the steps.
While they wrestle, cavort and take care of their morning ablutions, I start the coffeepot. Its hissing and burbling keep me company as I fill the dogsí water bottle and wheel out the bin of dog food. The rattle of kibble in their bowls summons the beasts back to the door, where I greet them again, feigning a cheerfulness I donít feel, mourning several lost hours of sleep.
They crunch, rattle and slurp their way through a quick meal while I make my coffee, then we head back outside while I drink my coffee and they go back to rehearsing for Canine UFC or whatever it is theyíre doing. Theyíre quiet and having fun, so I just leave them be, watching and sipping.
At this hour, the sounds of traffic are muted and only the occasional car drives past. On some mornings, I can hear the lonely sound of a matriarchal cow leading a bovine chorus. Nearly every morning, Iím greeted by the sound of an angry bird, steadily berating us for having the temerity of interrupting her morning repast.
Itís a female cardinal, one of a mated pair that live nearby. She and her mate are often spotted at the bird feeder, where she takes charge of determining who gets to eat at the free buffet.
Sheís quite large and uses her size to her advantage, often perching right in the middle of the feeder as if itís her own personal space. Sheís the only bird Iíve ever seen that has hips.
Iíve named her ďKaren,Ē both for her tight up-do and her uptight, entitled attitude, along with the way she treats the other birds who come to sample the seed.
Her complaining continues the entire time the dogs and I are outside. I assume she wants to speak to the manager. Her annoyance pleases me.
By the time I finish my coffee, the pups are ready to go back inside ó itís hot out there and the food is inside where itís cool.
They start in on second breakfast while I get ready for work. My cat, normally a quiet fuzzball, meows at me for attention, meaning I have to stop for belly rubs. We donít speak, but her purrs carry throughout the bedroom and occasionally through the closet door, where sheís managed to trap herself while I was selecting a shirt.
She protests again as I leave, smacking the door behind me.
By this time, the pups are finished eating and are usually laid out in the living room floor. I stop and pet them for a few minutes before ushering them back to their daytime quarters. Iíll see them again at lunch.
Itís been like that every day for the past week. At first, it was annoying. Now Ö well, I wonít say I like it, but Iím used to it.
Their owner returned Sunday afternoon, and Iím eager to get back to my usual routine.
Even so, I think Iíll miss my morning routine ó dogs, cows, cars, all the sounds of the world waking up.
Well, most of them. I wonít miss Karen. Karen can stuff it.