At 3 in the morning (or is it 2? Or 4?) I am

Acutely aware of the superiority of my skills soothing babies (at least mine) or toddlers or even big kids who’ve had bad dreams. Crying because of a sudden nocturnal eruption of an ear infection (a few drops of warm olive oil) or the raw coughing of croup (steamy bathroom or stepping outside) or wetting the bed (simply new sheets or an unexpected sleepover). Years ago we thanked God for all-night reruns (the strange beauty of Gullah Gullah Island marathons). Now there is Netflix for any brand of distraction on demand. Grape-flavored Tylenol or the nebulizer or just a long, long (long) snuggle. “You Are My Sunshine” and “Peace Like a River,” “Hush Little Baby” and “Amazing Grace” on repeat.

But I have no earthly idea what to do when the dog noses her way past our closed bedroom door. She licks my fingers to ensure I’m awake and then she leads me downstairs. Going out back, sure, no problem.

But it’s never enough. We’ve been told to limit her intake at night so we don’t wake up to puddles on the floor. But then she whines. And she barks. And she goes downstairs. And back up. And whines. And barks. In and out. And I guiltily dispense treats because I. Am. So. Tired. I think longingly of nursing because it was so comparatively simple. And it usually worked. And we could all go back to sleep.

I cannot rock this dog to sleep. Or quiet her with a cartoon. Sometimes she does insist that I put her to bed, scratching her back or belly next to me on the futon until she’s relaxed. Sometimes I fall asleep next to her.

But at 3am (because time passes quickly) she is an enigma. This gentle, soulful dog who never barks when the sun is up.