I have been living in a pandemic bubble with my thirteen-year-old Brittany, Baci, for over a year. We spend 95% of our waking hours together. Typically, she is within 3 feet of me as I work in my office, either at my desk or my writing chair. She is attached. I am attached. She observes me. I observe her. She is my priority. I am her priority. Outside of the first few months with my newborn children and an eight-week cross-country trailer trip with my family as an eight year old, I cannot remember being in such close proximity to another being on this earth for an extended period of time.
I’ve observed a lot over the last year and this is the world according to Baci:
Baci has the uncanny ability to know what time it is. She is outside my bedroom door at precisely 5 AM every morning. I am amazed by this. Of course, I have the uncanny ability to be up without an alarm at 5 AM every morning. Since the pandemic, our schedule has been so regular and rarely wavers. We both know the day begins at 5 AM and ends at 9 PM without fail. Breakfast is at precisely 6:45 AM and a change to a later time is quickly remedied by shaking her head back and forth as if she wants to twist off her head like a bottle cap. If I’m not keeping track of time; Baci will remind me.
Baci sleeps for upwards of twenty hours a day. Granted, some of that is napping with one eye wearily keeping tabs on me. She sleeps in all manner of positions, sprawled next to me on the floor, curled up on the couch next me and, my boyfriend Roy’s favorite, upside down on her back with her legs strewn in the air. Most evenings she is fast asleep for the night by 6 PM. Waking her up before 9 PM to take her out for a bathroom break is something like waking a sleeping teenager from an all-nighter. We coax, cajole, demand and she ultimately, stubbornly, reluctantly, slowly rises from her bed and acquiesces. I’m jealous that she can sleep just about anywhere.
Baci and I are in a symbiotic relationship for most of the work week.
First thing she waits next to the leash closet to be walked, then into the kitchen while I make my coffee, off to the couch while I meditate, then back to the kitchen for another cup of coffee, back to the couch for Spanish. Not to be outdone – outside my bathroom while I shower, then on to the most important item of the day, breakfast, off to the office to sit next to me while I type. She walks ahead of me, glancing back, keeping tabs on my every move. I can see her hesitate sometimes as if thinking, “Hmmm, is she going to have another cup of coffee or will she head to her desk for a video call?” She’s like a butler waiting in anticipation of my wants and desires.
Baci’s greatest joy is getting outside. We go for walks almost every day. Perhaps it’s the memory of spending her whole day outside at my lake house and having the freedom to explore anything and everything she wanted. It’s the highlight of my day as well. Escaping to the fresh air, the birds, the insects, the trees, the elusive squirrel; we both enjoy getting outside. Baci’s focus is smelling everything, her head is down and there is nothing that escapes her nose. Like a beacon, she inhales all the information inclusive of previous visitors to the trails, other dogs, squirrels and discarded food. Baci loves to explore outside, true to her breed.
If I have learned anything from Baci since this pandemic started, it’s that her stare is a call for attention. Whether I am sitting on the couch, at my desk, or making dinner in the kitchen, she will stand in front of me squarely on all fours and stare at me intently when she needs to go outside. I was slow to learn this. There was plenty a conference call or Zoom chat where she tried desperately to get my attention, and I ignored her, petted her or threw a toy to distract her. Typically, this resulted in a puddle somewhere in the house once I was able to get off the call. Now? I drop everything. I tell folks I’ll call back. I cut the meeting short. I realize I am the one being trained but The Stare means NOW, not later.
I love being needed and the center of Baci’s world. She loves me unconditionally; it is reciprocal. I love her unconditionally. I struggle knowing that someday this will change whether I am no longer home all day or when she passes away. It’s all inevitable and I need to remember that I’m in Baci’s world right now and to be present for it.