The Duties of a Dog

The room is chilly but cozy, as the old thin windows try their best to keep in the heat.  The electric baseboard radiators ping and pop as they continue to keep the room warm.  As the sun starts lowering in the sky, the winter afternoon is quickly turning to evening, getting slightly darker by the minute.  Two dogs are curled up in little balls, each on their respective pieces of furniture, each cuddled up with their favorite blanket.  The poodle rests on the back of the couch and takes up no more space than a salad plate.  Underneath her is a gray college blanket, folded and flopped to perfection by her digging paws before settling down.  Her eyes are shut, flickering occasionally as she pretends she is still awake, losing the battle against fatigue as she slips in and out of her dreams.   The schnauzer is balled up in an impressively tight package that makes her look even smaller than she is, her face buried within the folds of her favorite red fleece blanket draped over the recliner.

The two of them rest in the peaceful living room as the snowflakes fall outside the window.  The temperature continues to drop but they don’t know.  A gentle tapping noise persists from outside as the wind steadily blows against the house an electrical cord dangling for the front Christmas lights.  The dogs’ minds race around thoughts of warm spring days chasing rabbits and wrestling each other in the grass.  Both look angelic and innocent, relaxing peacefully without a care or responsibility in the world.

Suddenly, something happens.  Their heads bolt up.  They hear something.  They forget all about napping and bunnies and warm spring weather.  In a split second, they simultaneously flip out and stand up, springing from their sleepy states and popping to life with extreme intensity, like a switch being flipped that jolts them to life.  The poodle lets out her incessant high-pitched barking, a surprisingly powerful sound from such a small frame.  She stares with determination at the window.  She barks continuously, loudly, and as she forgets all about being tired and napping, leaps off the top of the couch and tears through the house.  The schnauzer follows, bark-screaming behind her, wailing and carrying on as if she is charging into the front lines of battle.  Her facial expression changes from sleepy to fight-ready.  The perfectly-placed blankets get flopped to the ground with disarray in the scuffle.

The dogs tear through the house and fly through the kitchen, their back legs moving faster than they can control on the laminate flooring as they scramble and shuffle and slide into the kitchen cabinets, all the while barking and carrying on with intense ferocity.  Both arrive in the other living room at the far side of the house, and within a split second are perched on the back of the couch there, faces poking through picture window curtains as they growl and snarl and howl at the driveway.  Their eyes are full of fire and excitement.  Their barks and growls are extreme, constant, explosive.  No living creature passes by this home unnoticed.  They will defend.  They will see whatever is out there, and will not let it approach.  This is their house.  This is their territory.  And they won’t stand for any nonsense.

Meanwhile – somewhere down the street – someone shuts a car door.

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