Just as I arrive at that luxurious place between awake and asleep and the only noise is the tree frogs in the back yard and the hum of the refrigerator, I hear soft noises under the bed. The noises come from live animals that either watched Toy Story too many times or have simply deduced that the humans are no longer conscious and they are free to romp with impunity. By animals, I mean Milo, the puppy, and Max, the orange cat. I listen in earnest for the sound of teeth on leather, which would cause me to jump out of bed and save the shoe that Milo pried out of the closet. If I’m especially tired and the sound is relatively indistinguishable, I’ll let it go and suffer the consequences in the morning. You might not think that prudent. And, indeed, it isn’t. I have discovered shredded sandals, paper towel rolls reduced to bits the size of dried oregano, magazines—oh, the magazines, sunglasses through which I can no longer see. . . You get my drift.
Max has a way of egging Milo on by batting at whatever little object he has found—especially if the object is wiggling around in the chewing. It’s a process of chewing, wiggling, batting, chewing, wiggling, batting until Max gets bored and hops up on the end of the bed to sleep. Milo, of course, does not actually need Max to egg him on. He’s utterly self-sufficient in the mischief department.
I remember when the children were small and I would scour the house looking for hazards to remove to keep them safe. Those days are long gone, and I’m not the young attentive mother I once was. I overlook things—clearly. I push pens and books toward the center of the coffee table thinking that Milo can’t grab them. But Milo is as agile as a rhesus monkey—up on his hind legs with his little snout pushing and pulling, his paws nearly prehensile.
My sister bought a puzzle box for her dog. The dog was frightened, so she gave it to Milo. It’s a flat box with little cups for treats that can be covered to force the dog to search for them. It’s intended to be a stimulating challenge. Since bringing it home, Milo has not only figured out how to retrieve all the treats, but has tried to dismantle the box entirely—either to find any additional errant goodies inside or to make us stop such foolishness and give him the damned things.
As much as we try to stimulate Milo to the point of exhaustion, he is not wired for tired. Now 23 years removed from my last round of sleepless nights and frenetic investigation of the dangers lurking in the house, I have returned to that fitful torpor that comes from a Bichon on an endless search and destroy mission and a house that can never be fully puppy proofed.