Most folks would not appreciate the sound of a barking dog waking them at three o'clock in the morning. To call such noise melodious would be a stretch of the imagination. But, after my experience this past week, dog-sitting my mom's little terrier, I have gained a whole new perspective.
Since I couldn't sleep, I was up painting. My husband was away at the hospital, covering the emergency room for the night. Mom, gone to visit my brother in Chicago, left Eliza behind to keep me company.
Having recently down sized to a classic 1930's house in an older neighborhood of our city (we're trying to be practical as we plan for retirement), we have needed to do a lot of work to make this our new home. We joke that we have to fit a size ten foot into a size five shoe. To expand one bedroom into a master suite, we took out the wall to the three season porch. With banks of tall windows on three sides, this extension will make the new room such a luxury bedroom.
While I scraped and painted in this porch area, Eliza watched me. She had stationed herself on our four-poster bed, which was sitting out from the walls in the center of the room. Occasionally, her low growl interrupted our quiet. Since the memorial parkway beyond our front yard is frequented by late-night joggers, making use of the lights, I paid no heed to her attempted warning. I just told Eliza to be quiet.
"It's okay, Eliza, shush!"
Finally, I thought I might be tired enough to sleep, so I turned off the lights and crawled into bed. Eliza's nose pointed toward the front yard, and I took the side facing the back yard. I'm not sure if I had fallen asleep yet, or not, but I heard Eliza's low growl begin again. This time, it had a more urgent, panicked ferocity to it that brought me instantly wide awake. Suddenly, she was up on all four legs, nails dug into the bedding, barking like I had never heard her bark before.
Too scared, now, to leap to my feet, I think I must have rolled out of bed, crouching down so I was no higher than the mattress. I crept to face what might be the cause of Eliza's shrill alarm. Her stance indicated the middle window on the wall toward the street. Shadows from the hedge beyond made it impossible to see anything that might be there. I continued crawling until my face reached the screen inside the casement window, which was open slightly for the fresh air. As I peered into the darkness, my eyes looked straight into another pair of eyes.
I cannot tell you whether my heart stopped or not. But, I suddenly felt this sickening lead weight in my chest and a sensation like ice water flowing down the backs of my arms. Even though it seemed I had entered a limbo of suspended animation, struck speechless, I heard my own voice screaming.
Obviously frightened away by our noisy outburst, the man fled down the neighbor's driveway in a hunched over posture, clutching his pants. I dialed 9-1-1.
The police told me to move to the center of the house, away from all windows. I grabbed Eliza and went to the hall where we sat on the floor, outside the bathroom. From there we watched the lights playing on the ceiling and walls within our view, as the police searched front and back yards all around the perimeter of the house.
Of course, the man was no longer there, I told the police. But, I thanked them for their presence, and assured them they most likely had prevented any further trespassing by this peeping Tom, tonight anyway.
Even after the police were gone, Eliza continued barking. In fact, she barked steadily for half an hour. And, I didn't try to stop her. I just held her quivering little body and tried to console her. Resting my head against the wall, I looked up and gave thanks to the Almighty for letting me have this tiny mite of a protector to be my hero.
From now on, I will always be grateful for dogs that bark in the middle of the night. They have something to tell us. As for Eliza's barking, it will always be music to my ears.
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