I lie in bed at night reading a little before turning the light out, on the left side of the bed closest the lamp. He’ll lie next to me, on the right, against my thigh. As one hand holds the e-reader, the other gently strokes his neck and back. I monitor his shallow breathing and feel the rise and fall of his chest. I nestle my hand into the black hair on his back. When he changes position, I wend my fingers into the longer tan hair on his belly or the top of his head. We both enter a state of serenity during this time. When I finally switch the light out, I reposition the pillows and turn onto my right side. Tatter stays in the space formed my bent knees, a lap turned on its side. He has already fallen asleep by then and on good nights I will drift off easily.
We’ve been sleeping together since he was a small pup, against the recommendations of many trainers and dog breeders. But he was so small and soft and I couldn’t refuse those big brown eyes. And now, after nine and a half years we have a nightly choreography, a bedtime ballet.
I don’t consider myself a light sleeper. I get accustomed to noise patterns and repetitive disturbances easily. I stopped hearing the garbage truck in the pre-dawn hours years ago, subconsciously accepting its weekly rhythm.
Lately I’ve been having very restless nights wondering about my future; about my Peace Corps reassignment; about my living arrangements after the house sells (before I depart whenever to wherever); about whether I should travel across the country or not; and I ponder the concept of whether I’m living in limbo or purgatory. I wake up at numerous times throughout the night and find myself in various positions upon the bed. I toss and turn frequently, lying on my right side then my left; lying on the left half of the bed and then the right. And Tatter repositions himself accordingly, without annoyance. I will find him in my sideways lap or in the crook on the back side of my legs. Sometime around 4 or 5 in the morning he’ll walk across the pillows above my head, I’ll lift the covers and the sheets unconsciously and he’ll wind his way down my side and nestle against my left leg before we both fall back to sleep, if either of us has actually woken up. When I wake an hour later, he’ll be sprawled out with his back firmly placed against my thigh and I’ll put my hand on his belly, with a couple of fingers between his front legs and lightly brush his soft neck.
I’ll fall back asleep and before I know it I’ll awaken to find him on the pillow next to my head. I’ve moved throughout the night from the left side of the bed to the right and he’s moved from my right thigh to my left cheek. This ballet has evolved over the years and now that we’ll soon be separating company, its more noticeable to me. I try to take in and appreciate his mannerisms and his heartbeat, the little things that make up his presence, his essence. I dream that our breaths are synched and that our hearts beat as one, but they don’t, they can’t.
When we’re not sleeping, I encourage his inner puppy, his playfulness, and I marvel at his ability to enjoy and live in the moment. He can so easily entertain himself and you can see in his eyes he isn’t worried about the future. I, on the other hand, am consumed with what may or may not happen next. It would be nice to believe that I am learning something from this little dog and perhaps I am, unconsciously. In the short term I can easily enjoy Tatter’s antics and revel in his spontaneity and happy-go-lucky personality. Watching him takes me out of myself for brief periods of time. But then I’m distracted by the future again and am taken out of the moment. I wish I could be more like him.
I’ve been filling my phone with pictures of him: him looking at me, playing, sleeping. I picture him creating a new life with his foster family: looking at them, playing with them, sleeping with them—in the moment. I, of course, want to remember him when he is no longer in my possession, no longer a part of my day-to-day life. I want to remember his personality and his antics and hold onto the essence of my Tatterdemalion. I want to remind myself to live in the present as he does so well.