This Side Up

Silent treatment from Ollie


It’s happened several times at different times of night.

For no apparent reason I wake up with the feeling I’m being watched. The room is dark. The ticking of the bureau clock seems unusually loud. I slow my breathing and listen intently. It’s then that I detect the soft padding of feet and know instantly that Ollie is up. I raise myself on my elbows and in the window’s dim light see him, his head turned in my direction, waiting.

I suspect he needs to go pee, although before going to bed I turned him loose in his pen. I slide out of bed carefully so as not to wake Carol. Ollie knows what’s coming next. He waits for me at the top of the stairs and then bounds down for the kitchen backdoor.

From experience we know we can’t just open the door and let him out. He’d be gone pursuing some scent, like all good spotted coonhounds are born to do. Even after all this time since we adopted him from the East Greenwich Animal Protection League and he’s been a member of the family, he’s a wanderer at heart.

I slip a leash under his collar and wrap the ends around my hand before opening the door. He knows the routine and strains to get out the door even at this unforsaken hour. He heads for the pen and when he gets inside, I pull the leash free.

The neighborhood is silent, the stars shrouded by clouds. I can see his form from the glow of the street lamp. He’s scouting out the premises, methodically sniffing the perimeter fencing and stopping at the enclosure’s single tree. I’m hopeful he’ll lift his leg and then we can return to the house and I to my bed. But no, he rises on his hind legs following some scent upward.

“Come on, Ollie,” I mutter. He pays no attention. He’s like that. I’m wishing I had worn shoes, but I thought this was an emergency and I’d better get him outside quickly. Thankfully, I’d thought to grab a coat, but even so there’s a chill.

He turns toward the gate where I’m waiting and I’m thinking what was this all about. Has he been awakened by dreams; has some primeval urge to hunt kicked in; or, as I imagined does he really have to go?

Just as I‘m ready to enter the pen and get him, he plants his feet. Now there is a torrent that seems to have no end.

Well, he really had to go. He’s ready to go back in and so am I.

In recent weeks such night forays have come as early as 11:30 p.m. and as late as 3 a.m. We’ve come to learn the routine. He doesn’t whine, but comes to our bedside. He’ll pace but more frequently sit watching us as if transmitting a telepathic message to wake up.

Whatever he’s doing works. One of us wakes and takes him out.

Fortunately, this is not a nightly occurrence, yet I’m fearing it could become one. We make sure he gets out before we turn in. Carol has even taken him on walks around the yard. That can be an ordeal as he wants to sniff everything and forgets the reason, at least from our perspective, why he’s out there.

Yet for as distant and independent as he is, I’m intrigued by his soundless means of waking one of us so as to respond to his needs. Maybe in the silence of the night we’re more in tune. I just wish he was listening to us rather than depending on us waking up for him.


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