When this weekend brought yet another fresh layer of snow, I forced myself to try to come up with one positive thing to say about it. Because, wow, have I had enough of this winter. A positive spin was incredibly difficult, but I did manage to find an optimistic take: If nothing else, the latest dumping of snow put a fresh, white blanket over the frozen urine and feces-filled tundra that is our backyard. I’ve spent a lot of time this winter worrying about what our yard is going to look like come spring. It will not be pretty.
I’m pretty fastidious about back yard clean up, but there have only been two semi-thaws so far this winter. I spent time on both of those days in the backyard with latex gloves and a small garden spade chiseling away and collecting unearthed excrement like an insane poo prospector. If I ever decide to run for city council, I’ll be sure to use an action shot of myself crouched down in my frozen yard digging dog dirt out of the snow with the caption, “Laura Witkowski for city council: She’s obviously crazy, so she’ll fit right in.”
Of course, the best way to get through a frigid winter is a lot of hibernating and snuggling. Up until very recently Gomez was not allowed on the bed or the couch, whereas Asha has both bed and couch privileges. This isn’t because we favor Asha. She wasn’t allowed either before she learned the rules. The rules as we’ve established them in our house are pretty simple: Asha is either invited up, or has to “ask” (by way of a sit) to join us. If we want her with us, a quick pat of the couch and an “up up” serves as the affirmative.
If we are not interested in having her up on the couch, we say, “Nope. On your bed.” She might persist with her puppy dog eyes and wagging tail for a few minutes after that, but through sheer willpower we’ve managed to harden our hearts and ignore her adorable pleading. Eventually she accepts our answer is final and that her immediate couch dreams have been dashed. She will then spend the next few minutes dramatically pawing at her dog bed, clearly trying to passive-aggressively convey the message, “Well, I’ll try to make this horrible dog bed comfortable enough to lay on, but make no mistake I’d be on the phone with the ASPCA reporting this abuse right this minute if I had opposable thumbs.” If nobody is on the couch or bed, there’s no way for Asha to ask or get permission, so she doesn’t have the green light to snooze solo on the furniture. This isn’t to say she doesn’t occasionally sneak, but she knows what “off” means and is really good at following the bed and couch rules overall. It’s hard to convey the “furniture rules” without sounding like I don’t really want my dogs on the furniture. But that isn’t the case. I love snuggling up with a dog on the couch.
Gomez has gotten really good at accepting the many comfortable dog beds as more than good enough places to snooze. It’s not that I don’t want to curl up and snuggle with him. In fact, I often will sit on the living room floor next to his bed so he can put his head in my lap. But with his impulse control issues, it didn’t seem like a great idea to introduce bed and couch privileges until I was fairly certain he’d be able to learn and follow the rules. I didn’t want to set him up for failure, nor did I want him to revert back to launching himself onto the furniture as he wished with impunity as he did when he first came home.
Several nights ago when the temperatures dipped to well below freezing once again, Jamie fell asleep on the couch with Asha. Gomez was asleep on a dog bed near them. I went to bed but couldn’t get comfortable because I was so cold. Asha comes in handy on nights like this because she excels at snuggling and is a living heat box. Same with Jamie. But with the dogs and the woman all in the living room, I was curled into a ball in the bed trying to warm up enough to fall asleep. As I was finally drifting off, I heard a dog come into the room and lay down on a dog bed. A few minutes later, I felt a dog jump on the bed and lay down near my feet. I remember thinking, “Well, she didn’t have permission but I’m freezing so…” before dozing off secure in the knowledge that Asha was gonna work her little furnace magic and warm up the bed. After all, survival sometimes trumps the rules, right?
When I woke up in the morning, Jamie was still on the couch and Asha was asleep on the dog bed right next to my side of the bed. So who was curled up asleep next to me? A big, chocolate-colored pit bull boy. “Why, hello there. What do you think you’re doing Mr. Gomez?” I said to him. He snuggled in a little closer and opened one eye like, “Shhh. You’re comfortable. I’m comfortable. Let’s not make a big thing of this, ok?” And I didn’t. Because how could I be mad at him? For such a big guy, he didn’t hog the bed and he totally kept me warm. Plus he looked adorable. But I did start working with him on “bed rules” and now he’s allowed on the bed with permission. No couch yet. Baby steps.
I was a little concerned as to how Asha would handle being on the bed with Gomez, because it’s obviously her favorite place in the world to be and I wasn’t sure she’d take to sharing it. But so far they’re doing really well. Yesterday afternoon I invited Gomez up and he lay down with his head on my right shoulder. Then Asha came into the room and asked to get up on the bed. I invited her up and she lay down on the other side of me and put her head on my other shoulder. I called to Jamie to come see how cute we all looked because I could just tell we must look pretty goddamn adorable. For the next ten minutes I lay there feeling completely content and 100% unconcerned about the weather, the yard or anything else. Which, considering how much this winter has sucked, shows just how magical the power of two snuggling pit bulls can be.