«

»

Jan 08

Print this Post

Dog’s Best Friend

Summary

One of Ari’s late-night excursions from Dale’s point of view.

Sometimes my girlfriend has a tail. Sometimes she’s covered with fur.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, the first indication I’ll have that she’s not in bed next to me is the ringing of my phone. More often I’ll wake up just enough to see her tiptoe out or I’ll notice when she kisses my cheek and slips out of the apartment quietly so she won’t disturb me. I’ll grope for the phone and sit up, eyes closed as I answer and bend my knees under the blankets. We don’t have to say much during these calls; basically just an address and whether or not she’s okay. I’ve become a veritable cartographer thanks to these impromptu pop quizzes. I can mentally calculate distances from my apartment to pretty much anywhere in town at the drop of a hat.

“I’ll be there in twenty. Do you need anything?”

“Water.”

“Okay. Find somewhere safe.”

Usually I don’t bother dressing. I’ll pull on sweatpants under my nightshirt, or I’ll put on a jacket that drapes to my knees if it’s cold. Tonight I grab a bottle of water out of the fridge and trot down the stairs. Some of my neighbors think I’m a sleepwalker. I’ve seriously gotten flyers for support groups and clinics on the clip outside my door. I just smile politely when I pass those well-meaning people in the hall. I can’t explain, so they can’t know what’s really going on.

I turn on my radio when I get in the car. Something loud that it’s impossible to sleep to; listening to Elvis Costello growl or Keb Mo always keeps me alert. I check the directions on my PDA – Union to Twenty-third and then a straight shot south – and head out. I never know where Ariadne will end up, but I know all the places where she might call from since I’m the one who planted the stashes of clothes and supplies for her. The routes are never a mystery, which makes it easy for me to drive them while half-asleep.

There’s an all-night café near where Ari called from, and I slow down as I approach it. She’s seen me coming and is on the sidewalk as I roll to a stop. She’s dressed in a Rescue Rangers T-shirt, a faded Gadget Hackwrench giving the thumbs up from the chest, and green sweatpants. Her shoes are a few sizes too big and they slap the pavement as she rounds the back of the car and gets in the passenger side.

“Hi. Thanks.”

“Sure. My place or yours?”

“Yours.”

I nod and pull away from the curb again. Ari slumps against the door, hand against the window to cushion her head.

The ride home is as silent as the ride to pick her up. Neither of us are awake enough for conversation, so we let Mr. Costello do the talking. I yawn as I pull back into the garage and escort Ari through the silent lobby and upstairs to my apartment. I notice that her hands are grimy, with smears of dirt on her palms and under the nails. I lead her into the bedroom and motion her to the bed. She sits as I go into the bathroom. There’s a small bucket that was intended to hold ice, but we’d usurped it for another purpose. I filled it with warm water and took it back into the bedroom.

Ari had shed her shirt, shoes and sweats, sitting naked on the bed in a pair of granny panties. I turn on the bedside lamp and kneel in front of her. I wet a washcloth in the water and place her right foot in it to soak while I use the towel on her left foot. I scrub away the mud and dirt that she accrued between transforming and finding the stash, getting rid of the initial layer before I swap feet. She watches as I work, eyes blank, still half-asleep.

“Give me your hands,” I say softly. She holds them out and, after wetting the towel again, I wash them. I pay extra attention to her fingernails and don’t let up until her fingernails are getting pruned.

Sometimes I feel like someone might see this ritual and think I’m subservient to Ariadne. That’s not it at all. I love her, and I know she loves me. There’s no power play or domination involved. I put myself in her position. Ari is a canidae. If she tries to fight the urge to transform, the wolf takes over and forces her to change against her will. So no matter how long her day has been or how much she craves sleep, there’s something inside of her that won’t rest until it gets to go for a run. And once that run is over and Ari gets her body back, she could be miles away from home, in the dark, exhausted, tired, and nude. If she’s lucky she remembers what she did while in wolf form. Sometimes it’s like waking up from a dream to find yourself someplace you don’t recognize without knowing how you got there or what you’ve done.

I don’t know how she does it on a regular basis. I don’t know how she keeps from panicking in those situations. But I know that when it does happen, I want her to know someone out there is willing to come and get her. I do whatever I can to make her feel safe again.

Once her feet and hands are clean, I dry them off with a towel. “How do you feel? Massage?”

“No. I’ll just sleep it off.”

“Okay.” I gather everything, dumping the dirty water into the bathtub and dropping the towels in the hamper before I rejoin her in the bedroom. She’s already under the blankets, so I turn off the lamp and curl up next to her. She turns to find me in the darkness, arms around my waist as she nuzzles my neck.

“Mm.”

I smile. I know how strong her sense of smell is, so I sometimes dab her favorite scents behind my ears. An evil trick meant to get her to spoon me more often. It works, and she doesn’t seem to mind the deception. I feel her relaxing behind me as we both drift off.

Being there for Ari, giving her the security of having someone who will always come for her no matter what the hour, and making sure she knows someone is waiting to take care of her is important to me. It’s well worth the price of an hour of sleep a couple of times a week.

Permanent link to this article: http://underdogs.geonncannon.com/dogs-friend/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>