My husband Brian and I live with four dogs and two cats. This is our typical morning routine:
Our smallest dog, Cyrus, is a terrier mix with an incredible internal clock. Every morning, at precisely 7:02 AM, his eyes pop open. He immediately wants his belly rubbed and proceeds to make noises that are a cross between yips and barks, the canine equivalent of "Hey!" His yells increase in speed and intensity:
"Hey, (5 second delay), Hey! (5 seconds), Hey, (2 seconds), Hey! (2 seconds), Hey! ... Hey!!! ... HEY!!! HEEEEEEY!!!"
Awake by now, I reach out with my right hand toward him. Cyrus presents his tummy and I commence rubbing. He quiets down. But he has awoken Trixie, our schnauzer/poodle mix, who is burrowed under the covers. Jealous, she makes her way through the sheets, pops out, sits very close to the left side of my face and stares at me as if to say "What about me?" If I do not immediately respond, she takes her paw and begins to tap, then scratch, my chest. If I still do not respond, she continues the tapping and scratching on my face. I pull out my left hand and start petting. I now have a dog on my left and my right. Both are momentarily satisfied. I am groggy.
Our kitten, Marco, makes his appearance now, on my extreme left, near my ear. Marco has a perfectly round head and is cute as a button. I feel compelled to pet his head, too, but this means that I must pull my hand away from Trixie. If I move quickly back and forth from dog to cat and back to dog again, she allows it. But after a few minutes of this, a primal urge arises in both Trixie and Cyrus and they lunge toward Marco with a threatening growl, effectively scaring him out of the room and down the stairs.
Trixie starts up with the tapping and scratching as Cyrus yelps a "Hey" again to force me back into petting and rubbing. Polo, our older and larger cat, now pounces on the bed. Polo is not intimidated by these little dogs and he boldly strides past them toward my pillow. Polo emits a loud, deep purr and circles and circles until he finally sits squarely on my head. All is peaceful for a moment.
Baxter, our shih tsu mix, now arises from his little doggie bed on the other side of the room. Baxter's loyalties are to Brian, so he walks over to Brian's side of the bed and begins his version of the "Hey!" technique until Brian opens his eyes. Brian then proceeds to drum the bed with his hand. "C'mon, c'mon, jump up, jump up ..." he repeats over and over. After a good 30 to 40 seconds of this, Baxter leaps onto the bed, curls up with Brian and falls asleep.
Perhaps because the balance has now been upset, Polo leaps off the bed when Baxter jumps on, and runs downstairs to find and chase Marco. At this point, I fall back to sleep again. It is approximately 7:37.
Once I have drifted off, Cyrus realizes his stomach is no longer being rubbed. "Hey!" he yells, but I am too tired to respond. This is when Cyrus uses another weapon in his arsenal: the canine projectile. Cyrus only has 2 legs, so he is unable to pat and scratch like Trixie. His back legs are strong, however, and he is able to spring himself into the air, leapfrogging to a substantial height, and then landing with a heavy THUD! onto my stomach. He lands like a 10 pound bowling ball. On more than one occasion, he has completely knocked the wind out of me. I spit out a guttural "Huuuaaaaah!" as the air shoots out of me and my eyes bulge. Cyrus licks my face.
Polo, hearing the uproar upstairs, decides to commence the action downstairs by accelerating his chase of Marco. Marco is fearless and, to avoid getting caught, he flings himself onto any tabletop without looking, sliding across the surface. Inevitably, some plate or plant gets pushed off the other end. This commotion alerts Festus, our oldest, a 3-legged Rottweiler/pit bull mix. Festus had been sleeping peacefully on the couch in the TV room downstairs, but he now begins barking at the cats.
Trixie, Cyrus and Baxter, upon hearing Festus, commence a chorus of barking upstairs in response. This is too much to bear, so I finally sit up, grab my glasses and bathrobe and make it clear to all dogs that I am going to get out of bed now. I glance at Brian, whose head is stuffed under two pillows to drown out the noise. Baxter quiets down and goes back to spooning with Brian. Cyrus starts bouncing all over the bed like a Mexican jumping bean. Trixie continues barking in a manner that is way too shrill first thing in the morning.
I pick up Cyrus and start to make my way down the stairs, almost tripping over the cats who are coming up the stairs to avoid Festus. Once on the first floor, I open the back door to let out the 3 dogs that are up. Polo – an indoor cat with a sense of adventure -- makes a mad dash outside for no other reason than to gnaw a blade of grass. I make my way outside, grab Polo, throw him back in the house and allow the dogs to go about their business.
Once inside, I proceed to the bathroom so that I can go about my business. After 10 seconds, the cats begin clawing at the door until I let them in. They pounce around, jump up on the sink, do anything they can to make me move faster. They want their breakfast and they want it now.
I stumble into the kitchen. I feed the cats. I let the dogs in. I feed the dogs. I hear Baxter upstairs now, barking at Brian. Not satisfied to come down by himself and eat with the other animals, Baxter requires an escort. A few minutes later, I see Brian standing at the kitchen door with Baxter in tow, tail wagging. Brian grumbles for Baxter to eat his food and then staggers his way back upstairs to get some more sleep.
After all have eaten, it is about 8:13. Each animal licks his or her bowl clean, finds a couch or a bed somewhere and falls into a deep slumber.
I am wide awake.