I click my mouse on the red “turn off” button, and in mere seconds, Microsoft’s musical tones signal that the shut-down process has begun. For the rest of the night, at least, I’ve left cyberspace and returned to my other plane of existence.
The instant those musical notes hit the air, I hear other familiar sounds: the “whufffffff” of large dogs rolling over on leather cushions, one on the futon just across the room and another on the sofa all the way in the living room. I hear toenails scrabbling as eight paws hit the floor. Jingling tags tell me Butch and Kadi are stretching and shaking off the sleep that gripped them only seconds ago. Before I’m out of my chair, both of them are moving toward me, tails wagging. To them, the musical shut-down tones mean the beginning of our nighttime ritual. “Mom’s finished,” they seem to be thinking. “Oh, boy!”
I open the back door to let them out into the yard one last time. Butch waits on the patio while Kadi heads into the grass and finds the perfect spot to squat. Then, in spite of his sightlessness, he makes a beeline to that exact spot and lifts his leg to cover Kadi’s scent with his own.
While they’re outside, I turn off lamps and the TV, carry Butch’s favorite big, round, corduroy-covered bed from the den to “our” room, and put on my nightgown. Before I finish, I hear them back at the door. Butch scratches it with his paw while Kadi stands back and waits. I open the door to let them in, and Butch doesn’t stop for even a moment. He trots past me and the big bookcase, hooks a wide right into the dining room and around the table, passes through the gate of our indoor picket fence, makes a hard right turn and runs the remaining distance into the bedroom. There, he does a quick one-eighty to stand facing the doorway and wait for me.
Kadi, in the meantime, stays on my heels, watching every move I make to be sure I don’t forget the “big ol’ biscuits” that are their standard bedtime treat. She watches me open the bag, then moves in to check my hand: “Yup, she’s got ‘em.” Satisfied, she follows closely while I turn off the overhead lights. As I close the gate behind us (to keep her from sneaking in to sleep on the forbidden soft-yellow chair), she runs ahead to the bedroom doorway and stands at attention beside Butch. They get their biscuits and eat them while I brush my teeth, then I set the alarm and we settle in for the night.
We are creatures of habit. The Microsoft music is Pavlov, and all three of us are his dogs.