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Clippings: Loved ones sometimes make sleeping difficult

It’s 3:05 a.m. — too far past midnight to be yesterday and too far from daybreak to be tomorrow. If you’re awake at this awful time your mind stumbles into unexpected places. Anyone who has brought a newborn baby into their home is familiar with this hour and this state of mind. The little darling is the most precious thing in the world when you bring her home. She is cute as a button when she flexes her tiny mouth and cries out in the middle of the afternoon, and cuter still when she lets out the last sigh at 10 or 11 and drifts off to sleep.
Then, three hours later she bawls out for food and a walk around the dark living room, waking you from a deep slumber the first time, and a less deep slumber the next. After a couple nights of this you wonder why she doesn’t just sleep through the night, why doesn’t she take the bottle, why doesn’t she quit fussing when I sing her the song that has worked every time so far. It is, as any parent knows, an adjustment.
We’re going through that kind of adjustment in our house. We brought the little darling home last Friday after work, and she has been tremendous. She loves to cuddle and has these wonderful smiling eyes that look into mine and say — one mind speaking directly into another — “I need you. I love you. You are my world.” My wife loves her, our older girls love her, even, I might admit, she’s kind of grown on me. My only reservation comes at 11 o’clock at night when we turn in at bedtime.  I close my book, my wife turns out the light, my body weight starts to settle way down into the mattress and just as my mind steps off into la-la land, the wonderful new addition to our family jolts me from my bed with a loud bark!
And boy can Molly bark. She puts all of her 100 pounds into each bellow so that even George Washington, dead these 216 years, would be jolted into an upright position if he were buried anywhere in New England or Upstate New York. The one thing my neighbor said was “Boy can she bark.” The poor neighbors.
Poor me!
Molly is a five-year old Sharplanina, that’s a kind of working dog from Yugoslavia. Until last week she lived with a hippy lady in the woods watching over a small herd of pygmy goats used as therapy animals. The dog was gentle as a lamb with her charges but fierce as a wild animal with their predators. She went through a metal fence to attack a bobcat that was stealing a goat; Molly broke her leg but the bobcat didn’t live to crow about it to its friends. My wife, Sarah, gave Molly a beef bone to chew on and the handsome beast with the powerful jaw mashed it into oblivion — there wasn’t a speck of it left when Molly was finished.
And it’s no wonder, she’s got a lot of anxiety to work out. The dog is confused and a little scared living in a new home with a new family. At our house she spends more time inside than out, she’s got four people assaulting her with kisses and affection, and there are no goats to herd — not a one. The worst part for Molly is the night. It gets dark and, uncannily like a human, her mind seems to swing toward the ogres and demons that surely must be massing outside planning an assault on this wisp of a home. Anything can set her off — the coyotes howling in the field, the crowing of the rooster, the movement in the shadows of one of our two cats, with which she is perfectly fine during daylight hours. And then it is Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark! There is no stopping until me or my wife goes out to the front hall to calm her.
Oh, and she won’t leave the front hall. Since Molly came into the house she has refused to leave the slate tiles by the front door. She loves pets and she leans contentedly against our legs when we are on the slate, but if we take a step into the living room she looks sadly into our eyes and pleads, “Don’t make me come into that room, I can’t come into that room,” and turns around and lies down next to the front door. Not only is this perplexing to us, it also means that we have to drag ourselves out of bed and transfer down the hall to quiet little Miss Barkalot. And one pet is not enough. We found that after the first bark is quieted Molly finds a new reason to bark — usually with more urgency and increasing notes of desperation. The first night, Sarah slept on an air mattress in the front hall so she could quell the barking quickly. The next night I slept on cushions on the slate. The third night we traded off. It’s starting to take a toll.
Thank goodness Molly is such a doll. She really has a super personality and, like a baby, is very endearing. Even when she barks at night she evokes more sympathy than anger. My kids aren’t terribly fazed by the nocturnal interruptions, and they do their part taking her out for walks and whatnot. Sarah is enchanted. And me, well, I’m coming to realize the lesson with this dog is not unlike the lesson you learn with a child — you can’t impose your vision on them, you have to let the dog (or child) be what it is and love them for who they are.

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