I’m not sure what everyone else is doing at six o’clock on a Saturday morning, but I’m guessing it has something to do with sleep. Since Cinder came into my life nine years ago, I haven’t had the pleasure. Anyone who knows us well commiserates with the fact that my Weimaraner finds it a biological imperative that we rise by 5:30 in the morning, day in and day out. For some reason it’s become worse since this fall. She apparently didn’t set her “internal clock” to the fall back setting, and now delightedly starts her morning pacing routine at about 4:30. After a hoarse scream of “Cinder, Lie Down!” I can usually get her to come back to bed for an extra twenty or thirty minutes. But only if I allow her to get under the covers. I know, it’s ridiculous– especially since my friend Sarah bought me a beautiful Frette duvet for my birthday last year and Cinder luxuriates in it with an air that is decidedly proprietary. Princess that she is, I can’t fault her love of the finer things. But after my twenty minute reprieve is over, and she resumes pacing, I begin to lose my mind.
I’ve pretty much tried everything. Taking her out later and later. This has no effect on her whatsoever. I’ve taken her out as late as midnight and she still is ready to go on schedule. I’ve tried feeding her a little bit of food in the evening, thinking maybe she’s just getting up so she can have breakfast. While she thought the extra rations were a delightful idea, she still got up at the same time. It has nothing to do with going to the bathroom. She just wants to be up.
On the weekdays, the early morning schedule doesn’t bother me so much. I start dog walking before eight, so having a couple of hours in the morning to get organized for my day is fine. I tend to be a morning person anyway and at my most productive. But on the weekend? It’s just cruel and unusual.
This morning was particularly torturous because it had been a long dog walking week. I craved a morning of uninterrupted sleep like an addict looking for a fix. I took Cinder out around 10:00 last night and watched as she peed. Then I had a conversation with her. This might seem strange in other parts of the country, but it’s a perfectly normal behavior here in NY. We talk to our dogs. “Tomorrow morning we’re going to sleep in,” I tell her. She looks at me with understanding and compassion and I imagine she is thinking, “Sure, Mom, you’ve had a rough week. I can do that.”
Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Hmmm.
We’re in the park by 5:19. I am incredulous that she didn’t take my lecture to heart. As we walk down the promenade of Riverside Park, I’m thinking, “This is stupid. We shouldn’t be in the park at this hour of the morning.” It’s completely dark and there are no visible signs of life. I have this same conversation with myself every day, then decide that I’m safe enough with my eighty pound dog. It’s actually more unnerving to be out so early in the spring because revelers who haven’t gone home yet are winding down their evenings. Kissing on darkened park benches. Singing drunkenly. Lurching around, trying to remember where they live.
I unclip Cinder’s leash and watch as she crunches through some snow that didn’t get melted into ice. It’s cold, but not as cold as it has been. She does a little pee and then turns and starts walking in the direction of home. “Are you frickin’ kidding me?” You’re not even going to poop? I’m shouting now, as Cinder looks at me placidly and continues on ahead. I catch up with her (she’s old and has arthritis) and clip on her leash. I already know that this means in addition to the early morning walk, she will now be ready to go out again in a few hours because she’ll need to poop.
When we get home, I’m faced with my usual weekend dilemma. Another hour or two of sleep, or get on with the day? It’s really not a question. I brew coffee. You can’t take a walk in temperatures below freezing and not be fully awake. I look at Cinder who, infuriatingly, has climbed onto her loveseat and tucked herself into her sleeping position. Sighing, I cover her shoulders with a blanket like an old lady with her shawl. By now all is forgiven. I sip my coffee and plan what I’m going to do with my Saturday. I hope it will include a nap.