O’dark-30 (anywhere between 0430 and 0530):

Whining and yelping and other strange sounds can be heard coming from the living room as I lie peacefully in my nice warm bed,  beside my beautiful and very warm, soft wife. The dogs are kenneled in the living room and very neatly kept, shiny kennels. (they’re kenneled because the oldest one is 10 months old; Lilo – German Shepherd, Toby a.k.a. Stitch – Boston Terrier 9 months old; Max (Maximus) a.k.a. Kujo, 11 weeks old.

Beautiful, soft warm wife gropes in the dark of the bedroom for my head, accidentally gets me in the eye with the heel of her hand to wake me; there is a blinding flash of light and then the sound of her voice: “Honey… the puppies are awake and need to pee…” I mumble something not even I can make sense of as I crawl out from under the warm flannel sheets and stagger to the bathroom just 12 feet from the bed, flip on the light and again experience a painful blinding flash of white light, curse – ever so quietly so as not to disturb the wife – only to hear a soft voice behind me in the bedroom, “I heard that Mr. Potty Mouth.”

Now I’m getting dressed and fall over causing a load thud on the floor and discover the reason I fell over wasn’t because my balance is off this early in the morning due to a severe lack of caffeine in my system, but because I’ve somehow managed to put both feet and part of one leg in the same pant leg of my jeans! Again, I curse every so softly and am scolded and threatened with a bar of soap to which I respond, “dear, we haven’t had soap in bar form in this house in years.” Notice, she didn’t stir when the load thud happened; not even to inquire if I was alright. However, she immediately responded to the mild profanity that was a direct result of me falling to the floor in a pitch black room because ITS STILL DARK OUTSIDE!

“No worries my love… I’m ok. Nothing broken… I believe my hips have survived the fall; This time!”

O’dark 35:

Stumble out to the kitchen and start the coffee brewing so I can have a cup after I bring the dogs back in from the first of many trips to the back yard to relieve themselves. Coffee successfully started – Starbucks Italian Roast: Smells like poop coming out of the container and into the coffee maker, but tastes like ambrosia once brewed and in the cup!

O’dark 36:

Put my coat on, slip my feet into an old pair of sneakers, grab the leashes – all three of them – open the sliding glass door to the back deck and then head to the living room to loose the dogs from their kennels. (The opening of the door is a necessary precaution because Max, being only 11 weeks old could possibly get distracted on the way to the door and have an accident. He will naturally follow the larger dogs and if the door is open before letting them out of their kennels they will immediately go out onto the deck, where, if Max cannot hold his bladder cleanup is a bucket of water.

O’dark 37:

Dogs are leashed and down the stairs we go to the yard below. Now it’s a mad dash to their favorite peeing grounds. Lilo squats very lady-like and makes no sound, whereas the two boys just stand there proudly soaking the ground as though they haven’t gone for days. Watching them I notice they’re actually eye-balling one another as they go. Now and then I could swear I see their faces straining and the streams of liquid sounding different as if they’re actually having a contest to see who can piss the best, longest and most! Nah… Just my imagination cause its STILL FRIGGIN EARLY. So early in fact that the sun isn’t even up yet.

Now the fun begins. They’ve been kenneled since 2200 hrs the night before. The last time they had anything to eat was 2000 hrs. I try to time their afternoon/evening feeding so that the dishes are empty by 7 or 8pm and the water is gone by no later than 2030. Then, their last trip to the back yard is at 2200, at which point everyone is kenneled and I get to either do some work, or go to bed: which ever is most pressing.

Ah yes… the fun I mentioned. Boston Terries, when they have business to transact, are for the most part, not very particular where they choose to do their business. They are all unique in their methods of getting started, but they all share one thing in common: they have a little dance that they perform just before doing the deed. Toby, a.k.a. Stitch will stop somewhere in the yard, go back and forth with the leash tought and then just before it’s time he will make 4 to 7 tight circles and then deposit last nights dinner. He’s what I call a sprinker and what mean by that is he can’t stand still in one place and just make a nice, neat pile, he’s got to walk it out as though it’s somehow mysteriously connected to an invisible string attached to the ground, thus he spreads the wealth over a small area of the grass.

The two German Shepherds, on the other hand, demand that they be walked hither and thither before they’re ready to transact their business. They’ve got to first inspect and smell every square inch of the 1.3 achers of the back yard before they’ll even consider being ready. (we have quite a few wild rabbits that nest in and around our back yard and I’m convinced this is part of their ritual because I often catch them locating a deposit of droppings they they seem to enjoy as much as I enjoy M&M’s! Finally they’re satisfied and manage to get their business done.

While the Shepherds are busy with their first of the morning outings the Boston is getting bored and will often want to start the morning Shenanigans early, so he’ll first try and grab one of the other leashes and pull for all he’s worth. At 33 pounds of teeth bone and muscle he’s no weakling, so rather than a normal collar he sports a choker collar to allow me to get quick and efficient control of him. If there’s one thing I won’t tolerate it’s playing silly buggers while on the leash, and I desperately want to get this first outing finished; remember, I haven’t had any coffee yet and when it’s as cold as it as been recently I want to get back inside as soon as possible. The Shepherds don’t mind the cold, but Toby and I are not big fans of it.

O’dark 55:

All business transactions completed we’re headed back to the house. We get near the steps that lead up to the deck, I give the command UP and all three dogs bound up the stairs with Max thumping loudly on every step because at 11 weeks old his legs are still rather short and his paws, that look like they belong to a dog of two years make a lot of noise on the wooden steps, is bringing up the rear.

O’dark 58:

  • water dish full: check
  • both food dishes full: check
  • entry to the cat-box blocked off: CHECK (this last one is important because they’re not allowed any after-meal litter mints. That’s just wrong on so many levels!)
  • Coffee mug filled: FINALLY

It is now 0600. I’m sitting down with my first mug of good, strong coffee and firing up the laptop to check the monitoring software I’ve got running at the office on one of the Linux servers. Then to check for any alerts or messages that came in over night. While checking messages and statuses it is quiet except the sounds coming from the kitchen: munching, crunching and the distinct sound of tongues lapping water from the water dish. Then…

0615 – The Shenanigans start:

There is an eery silence in the house; the kind that precedes a storm in late Spring in tornado alley. Suddenly there is a squeak and then another. One of the dogs has located the favorite squeaky toy; most likely the last one to have it and who had hidden it the night before so the others couldn’t find it. In the following moments the single squeaks become rapid-fire sounds from the toy as powerful jaws repeatedly clamp down on it in an effort to make the noise, but more importantly, to let the other dogs know that the game is ON!

The rules of the game are simple enough and watching the game as it’s played, it reminds me a lot of the game Afgan tribesmen play with the horses and the sheep. One dog gets the squeaky toy, sounds the alarm to call the others to the game, and then takes off at a run with the other two in close pursuit. There’s a tackle attempt and then another and finally someone manages a good quick strike on a hind leg which looses the grip of the toy carrier and the one who is not occupied with a hind leg between the teeth grabs the toy and we’re off again. This goes on and on until after about 10-15 minutes interest is lost in the game and we’re onto something more interesting.

Chase the kitty is another favored game in the mornings. Again, the rules are simple. The needed equipment for this game are these:

  • three dogs energized by an early-morning walk with empty bladders
  • full bellies from having just eaten their breakfast
  • wet whistles cause they’ve drained their water dish
  • and one 15 pound orange tabby cat who is just trying to stealth fully navigate the treacherous terrain of the living room and dinning room area to get to his food dish without being detected.

Some mornings he’s actually able to successfully accomplish this task, however on most mornings one of them manages to tackle the poor cat who then heads for higher ground, spins around and unceremoniously assaults the offending pooch with a series of staccato lefts and rights which, since he’s declawed, confuses the dog who has happened to corner him. Lucky for them he hasn’t any front claws or they’d be in a world of hurt and the game would cease very quickly.

Having made it to his food dish they move on to playing tug-of-war with what ever one dog has that the other suddenly wants simply by virtue of the fact that someone else has it. This goes on until it gets a little too serious and human intervention is required or I just simply get tired of all the noise and make them be quiet. Thankfully German Shepherds have the necessary intelligence to know when I’m serious about settling down because the Boston ignores me like he doesn’t understand plain English.

0700 – A brief break in the action:

A few more trips to the food and water dishes there’s a break in the morning action. Almost as if on queue. Toby shows up at the foot of the recliner where my feet are perched while resting the laptop on my lap and working, he begins his personal morning ritual and begins to clean my feet. He’s very meticulous about it all too! He’s careful not to spend too much time in the middle of my feet because they’re extremely ticklish there, but does a very fine job of getting in between each every toe on both feet.

0720 – Daddy! I need to go pee!!

Lilo, the 10 month old German Shepherd (female) has a unique way of telling me she’s gotta go and go now. As I’m sitting in the recliner working or reading she will come up along the side of the recliner and half crawl into my lap being very careful not to step on the laptop. She’s almost a full-grown German Shepherd, so the room on the chair disappears very quickly. If I don’t instantly give her my full attention she will immediately begin washing my face in order to get my attention away from screen and onto her. She will continue this behavior until I put close the lid on the laptop at which point she jumps down and runs to the back door where she sits at attention with her tail wagging furiously waiting for me to connect her leash.

It’s a bit of a circus with two German Shepherds and a Boston Terrier on the leash at one time and most of the time they do quite well, but by this time of the day the urge to play silly-buggers while on the leash is overwhelming and it doesn’t take too long before the leashes are a twisted mass of spaghetti and all three dogs are actively engaged a roiling pile of legs teeth and tails all going in directions that are nigh unto impossible to follow with the human eye at this time of day. So, after untangling the roiling mass of canines they’re ushered back into the house following a scolding for… yes, being dogs. Look! I’ve only had one cup of coffee so far this morning.

0745 – Follow Pops back to the bedroom while he gets ready for work:

The first time she saw this behavior Lilo was very intrigued and sat and watched me as I shaved. Her head was going back and forth as she watched me put the shaving gel on my face and work it into lather and then drag the razor across my face. Lilo is a rather vocal dog and true to her breed talked and talked to me as I shaved. She doesn’t do it that much any more. Now, she pops her head on the bathroom to see what I’m doing and then leaves just as quickly.

I exit the bathroom to find Lilo and Toby on the bed looking at me and Max buried in the laundry that hasn’t made it to the hamper yet; only his eyes and nose are visible because he’s got a pair of socks in his mouth that he’s seriously considering having for a snack.

0755 – Leaving for work:

Now that everyone has been kenneled I’m out the door and off to work for the day. During my ride to work, which normally takes about 40 minutes, I smile contentedly to myself and realize how blessed I am to have three wonderful four-legged friends that are such an integral part of my life. They really are such a blessing!

One Reply to “The Morning Ritual…”

  1. Since this was written we’ve put in an invisible electric fence as well as added a fourth member to the pack: another male boston terrier named Cooper. He’s 40 pounds of blood, bone, muscle and teeth; but fortunately he’s a very sweet and even tempered dog and quite easy to get along with.

    Max is now tipping the scales at 95 pounds, Lilo is a good 60 pounds and just as fast as ever.

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