Our puppy, little seven pound Ollie, has achieved a predictable set of circumstances in our relationship that enhance his security. We humans, his caretakers, sit in chairs to read, sleep in one bed, eat at a table, work at desks, dig in dirt, and drive away in a car. Ollie understands he must not bother us when we eat or sleep, that the living room is out of bounds, and that if he acts agitated near the back door he gets immediate access to the back yard. He has safe zones: a kitchen throw rug, a corner of a family room sofa, a pillow on the office floor, and in worst case scenarios the “you can’t catch me space” under our king size bed.
So when suddenly the other night when the TV bleeted beep-beeps and its screen switched to a deadening black and white scrolling alert message: TORNADO ALERT in the following counties….until midnight…. Take cover…. and when just as suddenly the TV went silent and blank, and we normally quiet humans jumped into action, first to stick our heads out the front door to listen to warning sirens and check for swirling skies, and then began tossing coats and boxes out of a hall closet, Ollie froze on his haunches, cocked his head to the side, and looked at us like we had lost our minds.
From Ollie’s point of view (indicated by italics) we were making a mess of the hallway and engaging in disorderly behavior. Usually we only put one or two coats onto the sofa, which is a signal we are planning to put Ollie behind a gate in the laundry room and abandon him for a few hours. Are they going to wear all those coats? Cautiously sniffing at the floor, Ollie edged closer to the closet.
“Herb, Ollie is scared. Poor baby. Come here, Ollie. Here, baby,” I said, making encouraging smooching sounds. Just as Ollie looked as if he might trust me, the eight foot stainless steel telescope for viewing wild life in the tree tops, and which we had stored in the closet behind the coats, crashed to the floor.
We’re being attacked. Run! Ollie yelped, reversed course, and stopped a safe distance away next to the glass french doors.
“Glass! Herb! Ollie! No!”
“Just a minute. I’m getting batteries for the radio. Stay put.”
“Here, Ollie. It’s okay. Here, baby.” Smoochy, smoochy, smoochy.
Ollie lay on the carpet with his head down on his paws, eyes raised suspiciously, as if to say I’ve got my eyes on you, and I am not getting into that closet with you. Papa will save me from all this nuttiness.
Herb swooped Ollie up off the floor and handed him to me. “It’s okay, Ollie. You’re safe now.” I cuddled the squirming Ollie to my breast in a life saving grip.
Le’ go of me. I want outta here!
Herb handed me a jug of water, a blanket, two flashlights, a cell phone, a rain coat, and a pair of shoes, then went to check the skies. The closet was in the middle of the house underneath a staircase but the glass doors were only eighteen feet away. “Herb, this isn’t safe. Those glass doors! This is not going to work. There’s not enough room for you. “
“It’ll be fine. Here, I’ll show you.”
Now what?! Papa is crawling in here with us? I’m getting out of here! Ollie wriggled free and tore for under the bed. Herb elbowed me in the chin and squashed my left thigh. We struggled free and went after Ollie, who, sensing an ambush, fled from under the bed and raced down a short hall to the walk-in closet.
The dog has more sense than we have, I thought. “There’s no glass anywhere near the walk-in closet. “
Ollie crouched in a back corner under hanging dresses and watched us, his trusty caretakers, discuss the merits of sitting in this or that closet.
“The mirror is made of glass,” said Herb.
“But it’s not a bank of French doors to the great outdoors!”
“This isn’t in the center of the house.”
“I like being with all my shoes. Hmmm. What should I wear while waiting for the maple tree to fall on the house? Hiking boots or these new red patent leather Brightons?
Herb shook the radio.
What’s that red box in Papa’s hand? The red box, a portable radio, squealed like a stuck pig. I’m going to upchuck, right here, right now. I’ve had enough of this!
I heard the ominous stomach pumping sound of a dog planning to vomit. “Herb!”
“Well, what am I supposed to do about it?”
So there we were, sitting on the closet floor, listening to a local radio station. “Winds up to 70 miles per hour moving through South Warren County with potential tornado activity….” Ollie was losing his dinner. Our own dinner of chili and corn bread was cooling on the stove. Our TV cable service had freaked out. Lightning was crackling in the trees outside, and our power was flickering.
All tuckered out, Ollie, sunk into my lap and fell asleep. I could use a pillow myself, I thought. Of all the things we hadn’t remembered for our vigil, a pillow! Because waiting for an all clear when nothing tragic going to happen is really, really, really boring.