The story of a neurotic dog and a nasty spring thunderstorm (with beer)

"Please, sir ..."

“Please? Just one walk, sir. Or a treat perhaps?”

I realize this is a beer blog. But I have to get this off my chest, and if you are a pet owner, you’ll no doubt recognize this story as being similar to one or many you’ve experienced. And I promise that at some point I will mention beer.

It is roughly 10:45 on Thursday, April 2, 2015, when I decide to turn in for the night. I hadn’t had good sleep the night before and was ready to get a solid eight if at all possible. The only thing that stands between me and sweet rest exists in the form of a 25-pound Lhasa apso named Darby, a furry ball of neurosis and affection that is legendary for being afraid of storms. And April in Louisville means there will be storms.

The thunder and ran have already begun, but Darby is fast asleep on the hardwood surface of my living room floor. I figure I will simply pluck him up, carry him off to bed, and he’ll be none the wiser. I do so, and while he does stir, he does drowsily so, and quickly collapses onto the bed next to me while I set the alarm for 7 a.m. and turn off the light. My mind races from a busy week, and sleep does not come fast enough. Well, not fast enough for Darby and his runaway emotions. A thunder clap, then another, and then I feel Darby stir and rise. Within seconds, I feel the familiar womp on my forehead – Darby’s bigger-than-you’d-think right paw slapping me to let me know that he needs comforting. Or maybe treats. Or a chance to urinate out of doors. Or a beach house in Bermuda.

You see, Darby’s face is usually an Ewok-style tangle of fur and ears, with a pair of raven-black eyes that pierce any and all around them. His expression seems to be in a perpetual state of saying, “Please? Just one walk, sir. Or a treat, perhaps?” Remember when you were a kid and you would make faces at your sister or in the mirror to entertain yourself, and your parents would tell you if you did it too many times your face would stick that way? I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to Darby somewhere along the way.

Anyway, I open my eyes, and Darby hovers above me. He shoots a short, low whine in my direction. I put an arm around  him and say, “Darby, it’s OK. Go back to sleep.” Yeah, that never works, but I always give it a shot. He sits there staring through my eyelids and into my soul. Another thunder clap. Another womp on the head. I look at the clock by my bedside, and red LED numbers shoot me a mocking display of “12:24.” OK, I’m going to bet on urination. Why? Because storms make Darby anxious, and anxiety makes Darby pee. So I get up and let him out into the backyard. Meanwhile, I retire to the bathroom myself because, well, what else am I going to do while he relieves his anxiety, so to speak?

I linger a bit, giving him time to do his business, and then I return to the back door. And Darby, this little furry creature who is terrified of spring storms, has planted himself at the far end of the yard and is looking around like its a crisp autumn day and he’s enjoying the sun on his skin. Meanwhile, lightning cracks in the distance and big, fat raindrops fall from the heavens.

“Darby! Come in here!” Nothing. He just stares at me with those eyes. His head cocks a bit as if to say, “Please? Just one walk, sir. Or a treat, perhaps?” Meanwhile, the neighborhood, other than the looming storm, is quiet. I split the relative calm with my voice.

“DARBY!!”

He sits perched on the wet grass, paws stretched out in front of him, looking about as if he has spotted a phantom butterfly. Under my breath, I utter curse words I dare not use in this post, and then I launch myself at my bedroom closet. You see, at this point, I’m in nothing but a Corky Miller “Fear the ‘Stache” t-shirt and a pair of gray boxer briefs, and nothing else. And now I have to cross the yard in a thunderstorm to retrieve my dog – who is terrified of thunderstorms but won’t come in out of one.

I grab a pair of plaid man-jammie bottoms (shut up, you own some too) and set out across the yard, barefoot. My feet sink into the mud as I approach Darby who, when I approach, seems surprised to see me. (“Hey, I didn’t know you were gonna be here too!”) So I reach down to snatch him up, and he lets out a yelp. Not sure if he was just being dramatic, but I figured that now my neighbors all will assume I am a pet abuser – unless of course they and their dogs are fast asleep like they should be at this point in the evening.

I carry a suddenly limp Darby back into the house and place him on the floor of the bedroom, where he plops down and begins scratching himself as if nothing ever happened. Meanwhile, I go to the bathroom to wash my feet. The bottoms of my man-jammies are soaked, so into the hamper they go. I head back to bed, and I see that Darby has settled onto the bedroom floor and appears to have dozed off. This is my chance. I climb into bed, yank the covers over me and glance at the clock. It’s 12:58. Still time for a reasonable night’s sleep.

But because my brain has turned back on, sleep eludes me. I lie there and note that Darby is not only snoring lightly but at one point has one of his trademark dreams in which he jerks about, whines and flails his feet. Finally, he has settled down. Then I sense a lightning strike through my closed eyelids. Boom! More thunder. Minutes pass, but I’m not sure how many. The rolling thunder returns, and I can feel the storm intensifying again. (You can smell a storm, hear a storm, see a storm, but most of all I think you can feel a storm. I like sitting on the porch watching them roll in when I’m not in desperate need of sleep.) And after an undetermined amount of time during which I may or may not have dozed, I feel and hear something familiar: Darby is scratching at the edge of the bed. Oh no. God, no. I feel the sheet pull as he scratches over and over, and then I hear his patented whine that resembles a 3-year-old saying, “But pleeeeaaase?”

I lift my dry, weary eyelids and he stares me down from about a foot away. Those black eyes storm into my brain. I lift him up onto the bed, hoping he’ll lie down next to my leg and sleep, as he usually does. Instead, he walks toward my head and, good grief, steps over my neck, and stops. Stops! Now he’s straddling my neck, just standing there, and I know if he decides to lie down there, I’ll surely choke to death. I say, “Darby!” And he in turn rises up, plants his paws in my chest and holds himself there, staring at me.

“What do you want?” I say. A whine, and then he’s straddling my neck again. He soon moves, thank goodness, but as I try to turn over on my side, he’s back on me, and now he’s got his body leaning against my chest with his paw and head on my neck. He trembles as the thunder bellows outside. He stands again and womp! Right on the temple. “Darby, go to sleep!”

With that, I roll back onto my back, which is my undoing. He then situates himself across my shoulder, with his butt end in my armpit. My left hand is above my shoulder on my pillow, and that’s where he lays his head, right in my palm. He is somehow awkwardly facing me now, half lying down on his right side and half suspended somehow like a see-saw on a playground. His right paw then raises awkwardly up and womp! Right on my left cheek. Except this time, it stays there. So, I’m lying there in the middle of the night, listening to a thunderstorm, with a Lhasa apso doing some sort of weird canine yoga on my arm, and a big, wet furry paw pressed into my face. And he pushes. Within maybe 30 seconds, he begins to snore. He’s falling asleep in this ridiculous position! So, naturally, I start to giggle in spite of it all. It all seems so ridiculous that I feel like I must be in some sort of bad cable sitcom. And then Darby wakes up again. Womp!

I decide it’s no use – Darby isn’t going to sleep anytime soon, and neither am I. So I peel the covers away, grab my phone from the nightstand, and then I have an idea. He has a couple of shirts that my girlfriend bought him, and I’ve heard that dogs are often comforted by wearing padded jackets during storms. I decide to put a shirt on him to help comfort him, and as I approach him with one, he immediately goes limp, like I’m trying to perform midnight surgery. So now I’m on the floor wrestling with trying to get a shirt onto what amounts to a furry ventriloquist dummy. When I’m done, he just lies there on his back looking at me with those eyes. “Please? Just one walk, sir. Or a treat, perhaps?”

I head to the living room to turn on the TV, wide awake. It’s now well past 2 a.m., and I’m staring at all the flood warnings on the flatscreen. I linger for a while, changing channels – did you know sometimes they play “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” in the middle of the night in April? – and then suddenly realize Darby is eerily silent.

Time: 3:10 a.m. He sleeps, while outside the storm rages on.

Time: 3:10 a.m. He sleeps, while outside the storm rages on.

I look down at the floor of my living room, and Darby is in almost exactly the same spot he’d been hours before. I’m sitting there now, in a Corky Miller t-shirt and underwear, watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” and drinking a a Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA (told you there would be beer) at 3:10 a.m. on a Thursday night while this damn neurotic dog sleeps through one of the best storms we’ve had so far this spring. He is twitching. He snores. I shake my head. I let him lie there until around 3:30, when there is a short lull in the thunder. I click off the TV, pick up his limp little sleeping body and again carry him off to bed. I place him gently on the floor next to the bed and quietly crawl under the covers. There is only the sound of my bedside fan now, as the thunder has trickled to a distant rumble.

But my brain is still turned on. I toss and turn, trying to turn off, and I hear Darby is having another dream. Probably chasing rabbits or asking strangers for treats. I look up, and the red LED numbers tell me it’s 4:28. And then I hear a thunderclap. Oh god. Another. And now I hear him stir, the vile beast of the night. The creature whose very existence at this moment I curse. My solid eight is long gone, and now it looks doubtful for a solid two. Scratch. Whine. I keep my eyes tightly closed, hoping he’ll think I’m asleep and lie back down. And then I hear that familiar whine. “But pleeeeaase?”

I open my eyes, and his face is once again a foot from mine. In the dark, my mind reeling from lack of sleep, I think I hear him softly whisper, “Please? Just one walk, sir. Or a treat, perhaps?” I pull him up into the bed and he finally, mercifully, settles into my leg, props his chin on my ankle as a pillow, and sighs that big familiar sigh of “good night.” I finally, mercifully drift off to sleep.

Three hours later, after having set a world record for hitting “snooze,” which reduces my universe to repeated nine-minute increments like I’m in some psyched-out Christopher Nolan film, I begin to wearily emerge from my linen cocoon. Dim light shines in through the bedroom window. Darby has now taken over at least two thirds of the bed. I outweigh him by 175 pounds, but somehow he has pushed me to the edge of the bed where one of my big, dirty feet dangles. My shoulders emerge into the morning, followed by my chest and torso, then I swing my legs and plant my feet onto the bedroom floor. I collect my groggy brain for a moment as I prepare to go face the day on two hours of sleep. I stand up, pause and then I turn to look at Darby.

He appears to be dead asleep, but then he stirs, and then slowly raises his head. He yawns, his paws stretching out before him and his body tensing as he shakes off his sleep for a moment. He then looks up at me, and meets my gaze. His eyes say something different this time; it isn’t a walk or a treat he pleads for.

No, this look is more like, “What the hell are you doing up so early? Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep?”

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