I have become the Queen of Inappropriate Laughter. This isn’t entirely new; I have always had a bent towards the unintentional snicker at less-than-optimal times. But now—mired in grief and worry—I go entire days in complete numbness, it feels like, only to have the odd comment strike my funny bone. I laugh until I cry. And that’s a nice change of pace from just crying.
Otto and his brothers text each other all the time. The other day, Nearly Nickless sent Otto a text that had him guffawing. I asked to see it, and at first I wasn’t sure what was so funny. It was a picture of Nickless teetering on the edge of curb. Otto pointed out that it was taken at the restaurant where my mother-in-law fell and broke her hip after Christmas. It was a reenactment photo!
We couldn’t stop laughing. Even as we kept choking to each other, “This is wrong. THIS IS SO, SO WRONG.” Didn’t matter. We laughed and laughed. You used to be able to take me anywhere twice—the second time to apologize—but now it’s safer for all involved if I just stay home and alternately weep and cackle to myself.
I offer this as preface to what happened the other night.
When Licorice first came to us, she slept in the crate in my office. That continued for quite a while… a year? Maybe more? But Chickadee begged and begged to have Licorice sleep with her, and somewhere along the way we gave in, and that was it. She’s ruined now. This spoiled rotten dog believes it’s her God-given right to sleep amongst the humans, preferably taking up more mattress real estate than seems possible for a creature of her diminutive size.
We tried, the first few times the kids went off for a weekend with their dad or whatever, to put her back in the crate. Yeah, no. She was having none of that. She barked and cried and howled and it was pitiful. Being the strict and consistent parents we are… we gave up and let her come sleep with us when Chickie wasn’t here.
Now. It’s also true that Licorice would rather sleep with us than with Chickadee. This has nothing to do with Chickie and everything to do with ZOMGTHEBIGBED and the whole pack mentality of getting to bunk with the Alpha and blah blah blah. Whatever. But what it means is that when we turn off the television at night and Otto takes Licorice outside for her last potty stop of the evening, she often comes back inside and RUNS to our bedroom and hides under the bed. I think she figures we won’t notice her, and then she’ll get to sleep with us.
When Chickadee is here, and Licorice does that, Otto will pull her out from under the bed and take her upstairs.
Even now, with Chickadee gone so much and for so long, Licorice still seems to believe she’s getting away with something by sleeping in our room. Every night she goes outside, comes in, and dashes to our room to hide under the bed.
Often after we turn out the light and settle in, I’ll call her to come up and snuggle with me, and she’ll completely ignore me because she’s rotten. Also because she’s neurotic and I think she worries that Otto will grab her and evict her if she appears. If I really persist and call her multiple times, often she’ll come out from under the bed on Otto’s side (there’s a storage bin on my side, so she can only go under on his side), walk alllllllll the way around the bed, and jump up on my side. She’ll then drape herself all over me and go completely boneless, or she’ll plunk herself in the middle of the bed and commence licking herself, loudly. (I cannot imagine why Otto doesn’t want her sleeping with us.)
Okay, so. The other night I was exhausted because sleep and me, we’re not really BFFs right now. We went to bed quite late because there was a lot of terrible television that needed watching, and I took some melatonin in the hopes that I might actually get some rest. Otto usually makes it into bed before me, on account of he only has to brush his teeth and I have to brush my teeth, wash my face, put on lotion, etc. But on this night, Otto was doing something in the kitchen (I wasn’t sure what) and I was exhausted, so I powered through my routine and flung myself into bed. By the time Otto got in, I was already half asleep.
I jolted awake at about 1:30. I thought I’d heard something, but I wasn’t sure what. Maybe it was a dream. I listened, but I didn’t hear anything… wait, maybe I did. Crying? What the hell?
Otto bolted upright while I tried to figure it out.
“Do you hear that?” I asked him. He nodded.
There was a crash from the other end of the house. My heart started pounding.
“Where’s the dog?” said Otto. It was then that I looked around the bed and realized Licorice was not in her standard bed-pig-hogging-the-entire-center-of-the-bed position.
“Under the bed?” I guessed. We called her. She didn’t appear. Our bedroom door was open, because without the kids here we don’t bother closing it. There was another muffled cry. Another crash.
Otto sprang out of bed. “SHE’S OUTSIDE,” he said, running to the other end of the house.
I was still half asleep. I’d gone from being convinced we had intruders who were torturing our dog to wondering when, exactly, the dog had grown thumbs and let herself outside in the middle of the night.
I followed Otto. We ran to my office and opened the back door, whereupon one VERY happy-to-see-us pup crashed inside from the porch and commenced ferocious wagging and leaping and yips of joy.
“I took out the compost,” Otto said. “After I took her out, I brought her back in, and she ran for the bedroom. So I thought she was under the bed, but she must’ve snuck back out when I took out the compost.”
We looked at her, looked at each other, and realized that we’d left the dog outside for hours while we were inside snoozing away.
And then we started laughing. Giant whoops of inappropriate laughter, gales and snorts as we made our way back to our room, while the dog hopped into bed with us and pranced around the mattress, delighted to be reunited with her pack, and not holding a grudge in the slightest.
“We are TERRIBLE PARENTS!” I gasped, still laughing.
“The worst,” Otto agreed.
I thought of how she could’ve gotten out, left the porch or gotten out the fence somehow and disappeared in the night, and we could’ve woken up in the morning and had no idea where she was. How both my human children aren’t here, and ALL I HAD TO DO was keep one 12-pound dog safe, and I couldn’t even do that. And then there was a tongue in my eyeball and I was rubbing Licorice’s belly as she flopped around in the crook of my arm, and I was still laughing. Inappropriately.