My normal mornings B.C. ( before Ca$h) had consisted of waking up several times during the early hours and willing myself back to sleep until I could convince myself that I was sort of ready to face the day ahead of me. It was not unusual for me to stay in bed until late morning crept up and the only thing stronger than my fear of getting out of bed was the feeling of guilt for staying in it. My uncomplaining and supportive Husband awoke every workday before dawn and drove the long and trafficked morning drive to a Post Office over the state line. I would try so hard to piece together a day that I could present to him proudly when he came home tired but smiling each evening. I would sweep the porch one afternoon. I cleaned the kitchen counters one evening. But many mornings I would give in to fear of anything other than inertia and sit still on the living room couch, heating pad behind me and a quilt covering me. I would promise myself day after day that in just one hour I would……sometimes I did. Sometimes I did not, staying on the couch wrapped up until Edwin got home. From November of 2011 until April of 2012 things went from bad to worse until medication and therapy started to help. But we had a very mild and pleasant Spring that year and I won a major mental battle and started stepping out of my front door around noon on a fairly regular basis to run a few miles in the awesome weather. That endorphin rush at the end of each effort was as effective as any medication I could take. I felt triumphant when I told Edwin about my weekly improvement. But those morning hours remained nauseating and guilt – ridden. And getting that first step out the door never seemed to get any easier no matter how many times I managed it.
And then there was Ca$h.
He slept downstairs on a soft white rug every night. I could hear Edwin talking to him each morning after he woke up and went downstairs to fix his coffee for work. I would slip back to sleep briefly until my mind remembered just who was waiting downstairs on his rug.
Talk about morning motivation! I would practically jump out of bed (well at least a lot more quickly than before) throw on my clothes, brush my teeth, splash water on my face and quickly head downstairs just to hear his tail beat against the floor before I even came into his sight. I had heard that Pit Bulls thrive on routines. That was a good thing because I do too. I would carefully measure his food and serve him. Ca$h showed no signs of food aggression. He waited patiently, licking his floppy chops and dropping drool – bombs until I set his dish down. Then he slowly walked forward as I patted him and told him he was a good boy. That seemed to become his sign for bellying up to his bowl and noisily digging in.
We took multiple walks every day that gradually grew longer in time and in distance, taking us further and further from the house. He never had an accident in the house. I was very grateful for that and was careful not to give him any reason for a first time. But our favorite walks were those where Edwin came with us. And he always did when he had a day off or came home from work before dark. It was on one of these first family walks that I found out Ca$h’s Achilles’s Heel so to speak.
All three of us were on an evening walk near the fenced in reservoir a block from our house shortly after Ca$h’s adoption. Edwin had the leash wrapped around his wrist. We had not yet started using the nylon halter on him and he could be quite strong. Edwin bent down and picked up a medium – sized stick to toss for Ca$h, reasonably expecting him to chase after it as far as his leash would allow him. As he drew his arm over his head, Edwin stumbled because the Pit Bull unexpectedly pulled forward. Pulled off balance, Edwin exclaimed “Hey!” in surprise as he stumbled. Ca$h immediately pancaked on the ground, rolling his eyes up at Edwin squinting them shut in anticipation of what he was sure would follow. His tail beat a soft apology on the concrete. I called to Edwin to ditch the stick and both of us quickly dropped to our knees beside him on the sidewalk. We talked softly to Ca$h as he lay there, stroking him and promising him that no one would ever raise a hand to him again. We stayed there with him until he calmed down and then we all stood back up and continued the walk.
In the months to follow I would witness Ca$h either ignore or confront head – on firecrackers, thunder, fire engines, construction machinery, animals in excess of four times his size, crashing waves in the surf, sirens of all varieties and in one unfortunate episode the shrieking alarm of our ADT security system. For all of his sweet nature and comparatively low energy, there seemed to be no fear or back – down in him. The sight of him cowering in fear on his belly at a man’s raised hand with a stick in it was so horrific in what it implied that by the time we were ready to resume our stroll I was trying to hide the act of wiping my eyes from Edwin. I did not need to – I could tell that he was deeply affected as well.
I would like to be able to say that was a one – time incident that was quickly remedied by our instant reassurances and love. But that would not be true. His psychological wounds went far deeper than his physical ones. Bring it on. I had nothing but time and patience. I was already more than just a little bit in love with my West Virginia Pit Bull.
Not long after that dreadful episode, and shortly after midnight a barking Ca$h woke Edwin and me from sleep. Edwin headed downstairs and I could hear him talking to Ca$h who kept up his deep bass woofing in suspicion. I got out of bed as well and joined them. Ca$h was facing a window in our living room – the same window that had been broken into two years before. He continued to insist that things were sketchy. We had no reason to doubt him. He had not been given to false alarms to this point. Ca$h followed Edwin to the front door. Since this was a job for the men of the house I grabbed the leash and handed it to Edwin who took Ca$h outside to check the premise. Finding the front secure, we headed for the back door together. Edwin handed the leash back to me – he wanted Ca$h to hang back for a minute. But Ca$h wanted to continue the patrol with Edwin and pulled to go along with him. He woofed his concern and we both restrained him. Confused, Ca$h hit the floor in another pancake, looking up at us and blinking his eyes rapidly ready to accept the blows to come. While he wanted to help check the back yard he also seemed certain that his enthusiasm had got him in trouble. He jumped up on Edwin’s large reading couch on the back porch sun room and tried to bury himself in the pillows. I crawled up beside him and stroked his head. Edwin stepped out into the back yard to continue his check around the fence-line. I hugged Ca$h and he made small noises and snuggled close to me. I stood up and Ca$h followed me up the staircase to the Master Bedroom. As I repositioned pillows he trotted around our rather high bed and in one fluid movement jumped up onto it and settled himself down in the middle. His brown eyes rolled sideways to look at me and gauge my reaction. Up until this point, he had welcomed himself to each rug, couch and chair in the house. Edwin raised his eyebrows with each violation and looked at me. He did not approve of dogs on the furniture but gave in relatively gracefully. Except for the Master Bed. On that piece of furniture he remained steadfast.
Now the Final Frontier had been breached. I sat on the bed with Ca$h and patted him and kissed him on his big bean. We waited for Edwin and his inevitable reaction.
As he came through the door loudly proclaiming the house safe, his words were cut off mid – sentence and his mouth dropped open in surprise. I pleaded Ca$h’s case like a veteran District Attorney but Edwin lifted him gently off the bed and settled him on a soft rug just beside it. Ca$h looked longingly at his former nest but stayed where he had been placed.
Because our house had been burglarized two years before, Edwin, never a light sleeper, had a habit of frequently jumping up and peering out the window at real or imagined noises. Around 3:30am he heard one and bolted up to survey the street below. Ca$h immediately popped up and accompanied him. After a few seconds I sleepily asked Edwin if he saw anything strange out there. As Edwin began to tell me that it was just a false alarm, Ca$h executed a perfect 180 degree pivot and in two quick bounds was back up beside me on the bed and snuggling in for the night. The Pit Bull and I breathed. Edwin turned and took in the site before him – two sets of pleading eyes – and laughed as he climbed back into bed. I guess he thought that if Ca$h was going to start helping him protect the homestead, he had earned himself a spot in our bed. Edwin did not say one word about dog hair, fleas, smells, cleansing rituals or the reduced real estate he and I suffered as a result.
And I fell asleep to the sweet sound of both of my guys snoring in stereo.