Sam wants something. But it’s the middle of the night and Sam always wants something when he should be sleeping. Maybe that isn’t it at all, you know. Maybe I’ve made some sort of sound in my sleep and Sam is checking on me. Maybe all these years that I’ve thought Sam was a night wandering needy dog it was actually me who was causing it but I cannot remember any dream that awoke me that caused Sam to stare at me in the dark. Sam is half blind so I know he cannot see me. But he sits and stares at me, the night as black as his fur, and I wonder what it is he’s thinking.
I can hear Sam move away from the bed and then there is another sound. It’s the sound of something hitting one of the boards on the front porch and with this Lucas raises his head and Sam moves towards the bedroom door. I cannot hear Lilith. Where is the girl dog? I ease out of bed and find the shotgun leaning against the bookcase. Now, Lucas is up and on his feet and now Lilith reports in by heading towards the bedroom door just ahead of Lucas. Lilith’s nails go tic tic tic, quickly and quietly. I can tell who is who by their footfall in the dark. It’s too dark to see anything, anything at all, so I hold my breath and count down from fifty.
Lilith heads into the living room quicker than I like. She’s on to something. It’s a scent or a sound, but she’s moving and Lucas is with her now and Sam not far behind. I ease the shotgun level with my field of vision even though it is too dark see the barrel. One foot slid forward, the other follows, right foot forward, left foot follows, right foot forward, and now I can see the clock on the stove from the bedroom doorway. Now I can see the clock on the microwave on the counter. One more step and I’ll be able to see the front door. I can see the end of the barrel of the shotgun and I swing it towards the front door as I step out.
I cannot see the dogs, not fully, but they are all milling around in front of the door as if they sense something might be there. If it was human they would bark, right? But they aren’t barking. They are also not relaxing. Lilith rears up on her hind legs to look out of the window and I can see her silhouette against the black of night. I aim for a point two feet higher than her ears and swing the barrel towards the door.
I never had these moments when Bert was alive. Even in his dotage no human being crossed our borders without Bert knowing about it and sounding off. Lucas is standing at the door, I can hear him, Sam is somewhere in front of me, and Lilith is still looking out of the window, still on her hind legs, and I am wondering what the hell we heard.
Lilith’s growl cuts through the blackness like a knife. It’s a low and ominous sound full of threat and warning. This isn’t the sound of a little girl dog, no, this is a full grown tame wolf making a declaration of war. If you’re a human being on the other side of that door you have to know, really know, there is a dog in the house. I feel the hair on the back of my neck rise. Lucas joins Lilith at the window and I have to adjust. Two feet higher than his head would be higher than a human’s head. Lilith growls again. The sound slashes through the darkness and the promise of violence committed with extreme prejudice is declared. This is the last sound you will hear before the fight breaks out.
I trust no light. I don’t feel the urge to illuminate the problem. I wish it were darker. I wish all I had to do was worry about someone hearing me and trying to figure that one out. But I move slowly out of the bedroom and against the fireplace towards the window. I can see nothing. Nothing can see me. I slide my feet across the floor, not picking them up, not hitting anything, not stepping on anything, finger away from the triggers of the shotgun, and all hell breaks loose at once.
Lilith and Lucas explode into fury in an instant. Sam brays a second later and whatever it is out there has been tagged up by the sound. I hear the noise of something, or someone, banging against the ice chest on the porch as they try to get away from the noise. I’m moving now, moving towards the door and I have to be careful with the gun, careful with the gun but at the first sign, noise or light, that someone is trying to break in I… the cooler has been knocked around, are they trying to throw it through the window? The dogs are losing their minds and I see Lilith jump up at the window, well over human head high. Lucas is in full voice now, hammering away at the intruder with his bark and dear dog almighty this one now sounds serious. What curses in the language of canine are being issued I cannot say but I can tell you it is now the Loki Mutt who issues them. Okay kids, let's not play nice here. Nearly three hundred pounds of canine are in full attack mode and whoever is out there cannot think to face this and live.
I put the gun down beside the fireplace and listen. Really. There cannot be a human being out there. Lucas sounds a lot larger than he is and he’s huge. Lilith sounds like a she wolf defending her cubs. Even Sam is bringing dust down from the ceiling. I wish I had my phone because this is just plain impressive as hell. You want to know why I keep big dogs in my house at night? What you got? I got dogs! But I hear the noise again, something is on the porch, and not even the drunkest drunk I ever drank with would…would they?
I grab a flashlight and the beam of blue white light is like a sudden sunrise. There on the middle of the porch is the ice chest. I keep it next to the front door so UPS and FedEx can leave packages in it so the squirrels won’t chew on them. One end of the ice chest has been pushed against the railing of the porch by an armadillo who has decided that he’s safe behind the cooler, even though he’s in plain sight. The light of the flashlight confuses him and he freezes. Now that the dogs can see him through the window they lessen their noise. Oh, one of those…
I go outside and use the cooler to push the armadillo off the porch and into the rain. How it got on the porch I will never know but I really don’t care. The dogs want to go out now, and so off they go, out into the backyard, into the rain, and I try to get my pulse down below ten million. A few minutes later the dogs return, happy and ramped up. It’s an hour before I have to get up but what the hell. I can always write.