Responsibility

There’s nothing like a loud crashing thunderstorm and my dogs trembling beside me in bed to remind me that I’m utterly responsible for their welfare.

After a day-long deluge of steady pounding rain and gradually stronger winds, in the wee hours of the morning some of us calling the upper left-hand corner of the U.S. home were treated to a sudden winter thunderstorm.

In the dim recesses of my mind I fathomed that something was approaching. I think it was the sudden quickening of the wind. I’m a light sleeper anyway, but the wind was roaring. You know that saying about sounding like a freight train? Well, it actually did sound like that.

The noise was made worse by the rain that changed from a steady patter to tiny meteorites flinging themselves against my bedroom window. I didn’t realize it until it was light outside and I got up to let the dogs out, but the sound was caused by the rain changing to hail.

I’ll confess that windstorms here make me very uncomfortable.  I’ve never been a fan of high winds, but at least growing up we didn’t have a lot of trees around the house and the only things that ended up being blown about was the shit us kids had left outside or stuff we forgot to batten down, like barbecue grills or ladders. Usually we didn’t even notice something was missing because it was promptly covered up in snow. We’d wonderingly re-discover the missing item months later after the snow melted off.

The main reason why I hated the wind growing up was something called windchill. The windchill factor is a fun little phenomenon whereby a balmy winter day in the 20s (Fahrenheit because I’m an American dammit) would actual feel like it was below zero. I learned as a kid to pay far more attention to the windchill temperature than to the real air temperature, because that was what YOU ACTUALLY FELT. Not just cold, but mind-numbingly “why the hell do I live in this state” freezing your ass off cold. And while I do not actually know anyone whose ass has literally frozen off, I can tell you from personal experience that one’s ass can become mind-numbingly cold to the point where you don’t even know you have one anymore and it take hours, yes hours, to feel it again.

This is one of the reasons why I love the Pacific Northwest. The weather forecasters here do not devote nine out of the 10 allotted minutes for the  weather forecast discussing the windchill factor. In fact, it doesn’t even seem they use 10 minutes to discuss the weather forecast. Puzzling as actually the weather here is more interesting and querulous as it comes directly off the ocean and often gets stuck between two mountain ranges. Mostly they just talk about what it’s going to be like in Seattle and allude to a mysterious thing called The Convergent Zone. But since no one actually knows what’s going on or what will happen in The Convergent Zone, they just flap their hands about, shrug and state that something different will happen in this Convergent Zone. They just aren’t sure of what.

Fun factoid. I actually dated a man who lived smack dab in the center of The Convergent Zone. All I can tell you is that I always dressed warmly while visiting and didn’t stay too long because it was depressingly dark and rainy.

I digress. Back to this morning’s storm.

My nervousness about the wind, as always, translated down to the dogs. Because three of them sleep with me, I could feel their growing restlessness. Youke, who sleeps to the side of me, huddled in closer.

Then there was a sudden and very loud BOOM! Now I had four dogs on the bed with me.

Brady is fairly well terrified of thunderstorms. Thankfully, we don’t get an awful lot here, but I spend the duration of each and everyone with Brady in my arms. And in recent years, Youke has grown more sound-sensitive.

Sound-sensitivity is a very common trait among a lot of dogs, but is especially prevalent among Border Collies. While I think Brady’s sensitivity has contributed to Youke’s decision that some loud noises are very scary, it’s also fairly common for the phobia to develop later in life for dogs. Sylvie didn’t fear thunderstorms until she was around five years of age. Unfortunately, that coincided with my move to South Florida (or maybe it contributed to it). Not real fun having a thunder-phobic dog in a place where there are thunderstorms nearly every afternoon for eight months of the year. We were both very glad when we moved to the Pacific Northwest.

Youke was shaking with fear beside me and trying to burrow his way closer into my body. Jasmine and Camm, while neither is thunder-phobic (crossing my fingers on Camm, but resigned to possible fate), where nervous, mostly because I was already apprehensive about the wind and because Youke and Brady were so scared.

However, it became impossible to offer comfort to them because Brady chose to lay on my head.

To be fair, there really wasn’t a lot of room on the bed and because I had been trying to offer comfort to Youke, I hadn’t left open the usual safe spot on the other side of my body for Brady.

In most cases, Brady jumps onto the bed and settles himself against my chest, allowing me to wrap my arms tightly around him. Thus, in full spoon position we ride out a storm with me holding him and caressing his fur while whispering into his ears.

And yes, I’ll confess that I take full advantage of these scary moments for him and run my hands up and down his lovely muscular body and feel the silkiness of his flowing fur. It’s sort of like a Harlequin romance-Fabio-meets-Disney movie moment.

But this morning, due to the lack of availability of his usual spot, Brady chose to plop himself on my head and to press his cheek tightly against my own. I think he may have been laying on top of Youke too. At least Youke’s trembling stopped, so there was that.

So although I wasn’t able to offer Brady the usual comfort, that close contact was apparently very reassuring. He laid like that through the duration of the storm.

With my head smothered and basically unable to move due to the bodies surrounding me, I thought about how touching – sweet, yet sad – it was that these critters view me as their safe place, their literal harbor from the storm.

I also thought about how humbling it is to be trusted with such a responsibility.

001 Youke enjoying a bed at a hotel during a non-scary time.

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