It is 4:15. AM. You know: dark, cold (even here in Hawaii), silent. This time of year it is cool enough at this hour to mute even the coqui frogs. And I am awake. I am awake because something has nudged me in the right shoulder.
Now, you might think that this would alarm me, but you’d be wrong. I lie here in the dark, eyes closed. Waiting.
It happens again: a firm, directed bump to my bicep, accompanied by the least hint of an exhalation from out of the night.
I grin to myself, but remain perfectly still. Until it happens again, this time with a bit more emphasis in both the poke and the exhalation, as I knew it would.
Resigned now (but still smiling), I pat the bed with enough energy to generate a quiet thumping noise. Not much sound, but enough. Click-click-click of claws on the floor and then, in a single wave of motion, more imagined than seen in the darkness, fifty pounds of Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog joins us on the bed – barely disturbing the mattress, so smooth and practiced is the leap – and curls up in the space between my wife and me.
He relaxes his weight into me with a contented sigh, in the process drawing the covers toward him and leaving my right arm and leg exposed. But he has already fallen asleep.
As I try to slip back into sleep myself, Dug begins to grunt quietly. Within a few seconds, his body begins to spasm, his legs moving in tiny jerks. The grunts begin to sound more like sotto voce barks, not loud enough to wake my wife, but easily loud enough to keep me awake.
But I don’t mind. He is dreaming, and for reasons I don’t myself fully understand, I revel in his dreams; I am grateful that I am awake for this.
I imagine him chasing the perfect prey through the rain forest. Even he doesn’t know what it is or what it might look like; his experience includes mostly just cats and birds and mongoose. And tracking tiny lizards through the grass, of course.
That he can do for hours.
But tonight, in his sleep, he chases that monster that he loves best, the one that doesn’t fly off into the air or slip through the spaces in the fence that are too small for him to pass. The one that runs through the jungle of his mind, between the trees and under the ferns, just ahead of him. He can never quite catch it, but he can always keep up; the both of them racing through the rain forest that goes on forever.
Bliss for a happy dog.
After just a few moments, it’s over and he drifts deeper into sleep. I roll to my side and put my arm across him, take my wife’s hand. My arm moves ever so slightly up and down with Dug’s breathing; Shawndra’s hand is warm.
My back is freezing – naturally, since Dug and Shawndra now have most of the blankets – but I don’t mind. I find my way back into my own dreams, where I hope to find that same jungle.
Only in my dreams, I’m in a beach chair with a cold bear in my hand, watching Dug chase his dragons.
He’s a happy dog, and that fills me with joy.