Chasing Lawn Gnomes

For 10 years I envied people who had the luxury of sleeping past 5:15 a.m.; people who could lie abed, still swept up in sleep’s sweet oblivion. That’s because at 5:15 in our house, it was time to get up and take Gypsy out for her morning wander. (I call it a wander because sometimes she walked, sometimes she ran, but mostly she just wandered and sniffed.)

It didn’t matter if I was exhausted or sick or just wanted to be lazy. Every morning at 5:15, there’d be the tip-tap of claws on the tile, followed by the swishing whisper of the bedroom door being pushed open, and then the pressure of a cold, wet nose pressed against my arm or face as Gypsy urged me out of bed. And if I ignored her, if I dared to roll over and try to go back to sleep, 50 pounds of brown and white beagle-mix would descend upon me and the bed. There was a routine to be followed, and she wasn’t about to let you ignore it.

So, I would crawl out of bed and into my clothes. Meanwhile, Gypsy would playfully bow to me, then rush at me and race to the door until I finally followed her, leash in hand. Hooked up and raring to go, we would enter the quiet world of our pre-dawn neighborhood. This was a world filled with purple shadows, wandering night creatures, and an abundance of intriguing sights, sounds, and scents to be explored.

And explore we would. We would wander for hours investigating anything and everything that caught her attention—garbage placed at the curb for pick up, a basketball left overnight on a lawn, a pile of leaves or dirt on or near the sidewalk, or a bike left in the driveway. But she didn’t just explore. Oh no, she was also my protector and bodyguard. After all, there were a lot of strange and wily creatures running around our neighborhood, such as armadillos, raccoons, possums, and (of course) the dreaded lawn gnomes that she needed to protect me from.

I discovered more about my neighborhood in those early morning wanderings with Gypsy than I ever would have on my own. I found out that the newspapers are delivered around 5:35 every morning, and that the same person who delivers the Tribune also delivers the Times. I found out who had to get up early to go to work, and who got to sleep in by watching the lights go on in the various homes. I also found a shortcut to the local mall (by cutting through the empty field and crossing the small creek). I discovered where the Sandhill cranes spent the night, and I learned which vendors delivered to the local food store at 5:30 and 6:00 a.m.

But mostly, I discovered that I enjoyed those early morning wanderings with my friend Gypsy, and now that I have the opportunity to sleep in, now that she’s no longer with us, I find I no longer want to sleep in. No longer am I envious of those folks who can sleep late in the morning; instead, I find I miss the tip-tapping of Gypsy’s nails on the tile, and the gentle pushing of her cold, wet nose against my arm.

So, as I lie here in bed at 5:15 in the morning, I visualize a healthy, happy Gypsy chasing away the wily lawn gnomes, and I throw off the covers and climb out of bed. I quickly don my clothes and shoes, and then head for the front door, because even though the sun isn’t even a blush on the horizon, Gypsy and I are going wandering, even if only in my memory.

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