The Very Opposite of a Gift

Dearest Rachel –

I suppose it’s my own fault for letting Chompers sleep so much during the day. But you know the old saying about sleeping dogs: I don’t want to disturb him. Particularly since Logan’s been over since we got back from Kevin’s place. I figured that Daniel and he can keep an eye on the old boy.

Which means I really should have taken the time to nap during the day. But you know how it is; sometimes you just aren’t feeling it. Remember all the times your body forced you to fall asleep, but you would start at the lightest touch, insisting you were fine, you were awake? Yeah, kind of like that.

Anyway, when Chompers woke up a little after ten last evening, I figured I’d let him just sit there for a little while and gather his wits. But no. It didn’t take him long at all to start whining, and so I took him out into the backyard. At least with the wheelchair, I can set him up and let him wander around and do whatever business he needs to on his own (and doesn’t really require any supervision, so I can stay there outside, or go back inside if I want to – which I usually do). Whether he does any business out there, well, that’s on him.

Eventually, he started barking, which was my cue to bring him back in. And since I’d already given him his Gabapentin pill (wrapped up in a treat, of course) before taking him out, I needed to complete the bedtime ritual, and give him his other treats. One for hip and joint, one for skin and coat, and then that new hemp one for calming him. You’d think with this routine down, he would know what to expect, and that he should settle in for the night. And to be fair, some nights he actually does.

This… was not one of those nights.

Again, it might’ve been from sleeping too much during the day. But right at this moment, he just was not ready to get settled into his doggy bed by your nightstand. And specifically, he would keep getting up, and heading for the Christmas tree in the corner.

This was a new – and particularly annoying – development.

I don’t remember how many years ago it was that we set this Christmas tree up. But with our bedroom painted and light purple, and accented with dark purple trim around the windows and the molding, it just fits right in, with all its silver and purple ornaments. So whenever we did set it up, we just decided not to take it down once Christmas was over. And it’s been up for – I don’t know, at least a decade.

Probably quite a bit longer, actually. The thing is, Chompers could never get under the tree before. Between your shoes, the newspapers, and all the other stuff you had lying around on your side of the bedroom, there was no way he could weasel his way over there.

Now, however, there’s absolutely nothing on the floor anymore. He has all that space to move around him, and he doesn’t know what to do with himself. And as a matter of fact, I get the impression that he almost needs a confined space to feel comfortable in, so that he can really go to sleep. We didn’t have this problem when we were at Kevin‘s house. The space between the bed and the wall was such that he couldn’t really move around that much, and I think he prefers it that way.

But it’s too late for that now. We’ve cleaned everything out, and your side of the bedroom is nothing but empty space these days. So he heads to the Christmas tree, where I guess he expects to find a confined space under the branches. Jan and I put up a few boxes around the tree when she was last here, and I spread one of his blankets over the boxes last night to serve as sort of a barrier. All to little avail. I had to yank him out from under the tree nearly half a dozen times. And always I find myself telling him “you are not a gift, old man. In fact, you’re the very opposite of a gift.” I don’t know what that would be, but he’s it.

Here he is, still scrabbling to get behind the barrier and under the tree.

And I’m glad that he doesn’t understand English. Otherwise, he’d be quite hurt by stuff like this that I tell him in the heat of the moment. Fortunately, that line about sticks and stones is as true today as it ever was, so what I say at worst probably doesn’t bother him nearly as much as the way I see it.

In what little hindsight I’ve been able to exercise, I probably should hope my theory of confined spaces is in fact correct. His breed, the cairn terrier, was bred to be ratters: heaven help us if there are rodents under the tree he’s trying to sniff out. It shouldn’t be, as you’d engaged a pest control company to pay us a visit every quarter shortly before your departure. But it’s just enough to get me concerned.

Over the past few months, I’ve been getting a lot of advice from a lot of people about him. It seems I put up with a lot more than most people would. Well, honey, I guess you’d trained me well. The way I see it, he’s an annoyance in a lot of ways, but none of those things individually – or even taken as a whole corporately – would be worthy of a death sentence.

And the fact of the matter is, apart from not really knowing where his back legs are, he’s fairly healthy for his age. He eats well, doesn’t really have that much problem with bathroom issues – except for being able to inform us when he needs it, and that may well be as much on us – and when he sleeps, he’s no problem at all. It’s just… trying to get him to sleep when he’s supposed to. He wanders about, and gets into things he shouldn’t, and does everything except actually sleep – because he’s been doing that all day.

Still, he eventually settled down, probably before midnight, because I dropped off by then. And when I woke up in the morning, he was quiet. But he had also moved:

And he had moved to about the farthest point on your side of the bedroom as he could from the tree. I don’t know if he’d learned, or if he was just wondering that much, but there he was.

And there we are. Just another morning here.

At least this way he doesn’t look like some sort of Christmas present.

Oh, and as a post script: when we returned from church this morning, he was barking because he had gotten himself stuck under the chair in the sunroom. It would seem that my theory about his need for confined spaces he is getting that much more confirmation every day. Of course, once he no longer needs the confinement, he finds himself in just that much more difficulty, but Present Chompers never seems to be concerned about how Future Chompers will deal with the situation he puts himself in. Oh, well.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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