The whining starts about 5:30 a.m. — a slow, heartbreaking cry from the crate at the foot of my bed that I can usually silence by screaming "No!" as loud as I can, then collapsing back into my pillow. (The neighbors probably think that the curious fellow next door greets every day by fighting off a rape.) But after a half-hour or so, Annabel has Emeriled it up a notch, and there's no ignoring the lunatic baying coming from the floor of my bedroom, particularly since it's accompanied by Annabel hurling herself into the grate of her kennel with such force that it often moves several feet. It is at this juncture that I sigh, put on some warm clothes and release the wrath that is my Chesapeake Bay Retriever she-bitch.
Said bitch shares a quality with many working dogs — one no doubt born of years of hunter beatings — and that's an insatiable need to collect something in her mouth. Chessies are bred to retrieve felled fowl for their masters on the Chesapeake Bay; with Annabel, this trait manifests itself in a wholly deranged need to blast out of her crate like a fucking cannonball, furiously find something to pick up in her mouth — a sock, a shoe, a water bottle, my wallet — and then bolt toward the back door, all the time whining and trying hard not to squat and piss en route. Twice I've fallen down the stairs trying to keep up. I'm thinking about getting a LifeCall necklace: I've fallen and I can't get up, and now I'm lying in a pool of my puppy's urine and she won't stop licking the inside of my gums! It's kind of adorable, but I think I just shit part of my hip bone!
I let Annabel out and she does her business, after which she comes in from the cold. At this point, I have a choice to make: Either I throw her back in the crate and she chills out and I go back to sleep, or I let her hop in my bed and she chills out and goes back to sleep. If I'm completely sober, it's back in the crate, bitch, you gots to learn that I am the master. But if I'm even a touch hung over? We're spooning.
That was the routine on Election Day, November 4, when I awoke for the second time that morning to a dog licking my face and bloodstains on my sheets: Clear Creek Annabel Lee had decided to greet the dawn of a new democracy by becoming a woman. I had not neutered her, since my mother is still making up her mind whether she'd like to show or breed Annabel. So the next month of my life was spent dealing with my dog's period. (They get about two a year, concerned citizens.) I was lucky that Annabel was not much of a "spotter," as they say, and other than having to keep her out of doggy daycare and go back from work to check on her several times a day, all was good. She wrapped it up nicely and life returned to normal.
But the other day, guess what? More blood! My mom took Annabel to a specialist; turns out she has what's called a "split heat." It's like two doggie periods for the price of one! And as for Annabel Period Version 2.0, let me tell you, Holmes, it's no dry run. She's a better spotter than that closet queer at the gym!
Why am I sharing the intimate details of my puppy's menstruation with you? For two reasons. One, because it's my life, and two, because my little baby is growing up. Clear Creek Annabel Lee turned one this week — seven in dog years. Sure, she still tears shit up with lunatic zeal — the day Cloverfield arrived via NetFlix, she smoked that flick in a way I did not know a DVD could be destroyed. And yeah, the other day she escaped down the block for the first time and was very derelict in responding to my demands to return, but she's still a pretty good dog. She's sweet as can be, and the way I can get that old hound a-howling, well, you'd think we was both inbred. Also, if you look at her and say "Annabel" with real purpose in your voice, she will stare at you with an intensity typically reserved for the lobtomized. When she's gazing at you like that, you can't help but think, "My God, that's a fine-looking puppy!"
But alas, my Annabel is a puppy no more. And so it is to that little lady — and to her brothers and sisters around the city — that I say "Happy Birthday."
And if you find me annoying now, just think how insufferable I'm going to be when I have kids. The thought alone is enough to make even me puke.