Yesterday, all afternoon and into the night, a heavy, icy rain fell steadily onto the shallow snow, turning the meadows into science labs of temporal precipitation layers: hard old snow packed on the ground, then newer softer snow over that, then a crust of brand-new ice, and on top, slick wet sleet in progress. As the ice-water fell, it piled up on power lines. It was only a matter of time before they started collapsing under the weight.
After our usual long walk, except the occasional slippery doggy foray into the yard, we all stayed safely inside during the sleet storm: Brendan and me, and Dingo, and Brendan’s aunt’s two dogs, Shasta and Bandito. They’re Dingo’s pals. They often stay with us and are like family, and whenever they’re here, we all automatically fall into certain class systems, like Downton Abbey. Brendan and I are definitely on the downstairs end of things.
Bandito, a small black spider monkey (actually, he’s a Jagdterrier, a German hunting dog, but he hops like a monkey with his tail in the air and has fiercely intelligent, preternaturally aware black monkey eyes), steals Dingo’s bed, or rather, he lolls in it while staring at Dingo as if daring him to challenge his right to it. Dingo stands mournfully nearby in silent passive protest, looking up at us humans to make sure we see what’s going on. “Work it out,” we tell him. “Fight for your rights.” It must be said that Dingo has the best bed: a cozy brown donut, soft with foam, with a sheepskin for warmth. Sometimes, in empathetic soft-heartedness, when Dingo looks particularly doleful and weary, we scoop Bandito off so Dingo can reclaim his territory, but usually we leave the situation alone. Dingo never looks particularly grateful or happy to be forcibly given his bed back. There are two other dog beds for him to lie on. As far as we can tell, he and Bandito are enacting some sort of doggy drama the nuances and implications of which we aren’t privy to.
Shasta is a year-old golden retriever puppy, a leggy, pretty Miss Congeniality, a brown-eyed surfer girl, blonde locks gorgeously mussed. Since she appeared on the scene, Dingo has done everything in his power (snarling, correcting, dominating, nipping, taking her entire head in his mouth, and so forth) to ensure that she developed from a rambunctious, needy, pushy, heedless puppy into a better-behaved, more subdued and polite child. In the almost ten years since I rescued him, or since we rescued each other, Dingo has shown a keen hyper-awareness of social mores and a frank horror at rudeness. In recent years, as an elder dog, he’s turned into a crabby enforcer, a stickler for manners and protocol. If he were human, he’d wave his cane and shout menacingly, “Quit that, whippersnapper!” Instead, he forces Shasta, who is about twice his size and weight, to lie down under his paw so she’ll learn the deal. As with Bandito’s bed takeover, we don’t interfere. The dogs have their own ways, just as the overlords of Downton Abbey have theirs. It is not our place to question them.
Last night, the power finally went out at around 10:30, right after the Patriots game ended (as a former New Yorker, I can’t quite believe I just typed that). At 3 in the morning, when the entire household was deeply, solidly, mutually asleep, the lights came back on; the heat roared back to life. The three dogs streamed upstairs, panting with inquiry: what the hell!? I took them back downstairs, let them out to pee, turned off the lights, turned the heat down, then told them to go back to sleep and went upstairs and did the same.
In return, this morning, while I slept, Brendan got up to let them out and feed them their breakfasts. Evidently he wasn’t going fast enough for Dingo’s liking, because Dingo came bustling upstairs and stood by the bed wagging his tail and snorting with bossy insistence until I got up and followed him down to the kitchen and helped my fellow human servant with the twice-daily food service: three different amounts of three different highly nutritious kibbles, scoops of organic canned food for all three, fish oil and chondroitin for Dingo, an elaborate treat system for dessert.
Meanwhile, we humans forgot about our own breakfast until almost 11. It regularly gets lost in the morning hubbub. Our lives are currently ruled by dogs and weather.
However, there’s a leg of lamb thawing in the fridge. It came from the biodynamic farm down the road and was a gift from Brendan’s uncle. We were going to save it for spring, but we’ve been eating a lot of rice and fish and chicken and vegetables this winter; it feels like time for some red meat. We’re planning to roast it the usual way, slowly, with salt and garlic and rosemary, and serve it alongside roasted potatoes and a heap of garlicky sautéed greens. It will do us good to serve ourselves a decadent meaty feast while the dogs lie on the floor at a respectful distance. It’s time to shake up the social order. Revolution is in the air.