Cricket has the weight of the world on her shoulders, and they are very skinny shoulders. She wakes up in the morning believing that she has, single-handedly, kept her Grandma safe over night from all manner of insidious evil. Sometimes she curls up on Grandma’s head to protect her from bad dreams (though not from headaches, clearly).
When Mom is quilting or making a pair of camouflage pants for one of her grandsons, or his raccoon, I always suggest the she use some of the material to make a superhero cape for Cricket. It wouldn’t be hard to make, but Mom does not believe that Cricket would be willing to wear a cape, or a poncho, or a sweater, or even a sari (we had some lovely diaphanous apricot colored material that I thought would look heavenly on her – but no).
As soon as Cricket has finished guard duty over the sleeping Grandma, she sets her sights on the front door of the apartment, where she senses that there are shadows lurking on the other side, trying to slide through the keyhole. She has been known to race down the hall, with her knees locked and her back feet barely touching the ground, to yell at some vague sound or another.
Cricket believes that every time she hears a noise she needs to make as much and, if possible, more noise in answer. So, one bark from a dog outside equals ten barks from Cricket. Ten footsteps on the stairs equals twenty barks from Cricket. It’s a rule as important as gravity, or conservation of energy. It’s not a form of communication so much as an energy matching plan, to keep us afloat. It keeps the world spinning. And if she can get her sister to bark with her, so much the better.
The big test comes when we leave the building and her feet touch public space. Then she must be even more watchful; so many dangers lurk in the backyard! One of the worst, beyond the daily horror of mail delivery, is the man who walks up the Forbidden hill, at 6:45 in the morning, carrying newspapers!!!!!!
Cricket finds this horrifying. She barks, and pulls at the leash and tries to get her paws up into the air to fight. I drag her, and a bewildered Butterfly, up the Good hill (the one the co-op says we are allowed to walk on, and therefore does not weed or mow), until Cricket can no longer see the offending newspaper man. But she still barks at him in absentia. She barks much longer than any reasonable dog could think it might take for the man to walk down our block of buildings and out of sight.
When I take the dogs back down the hill, Butterfly strolls along but Cricket is still pulling to get to the invisible interloper. She has come very close to hurting herself any number of times by leaping into the air while her leash stays still, because I’m in the middle of picking up her sister’s poop.
Most of the time when we are out in the backyard, Cricket is so busy trying to save the world (from work men, mailmen, neighbors and squirrels) that she forgets to poop. Inside the apartment she was hopping and climbing on me and scratching at my arm or leg in desperation, but outside, there’s too much going on to focus on something as boring as having to poop.
Butterfly’s job is to follow Cricket, to back her up in a worthy cause, or to get in her face and offer some calming doggy breaths when the hysteria has gone on too long. But Butterfly NEVER forgets to poop, or pee, or listen to the birds, or meditate for a bit, or check out the cat food left out for the local feral cats. Butterfly’s priorities are internal. She hears the rhythms of her own body loud and clear and only focuses externally once those needs are taken care of.
We finally make our way back to our building, and Cricket is still blinking, and checking from side to side, and imagining newspaper men hiding behind bushes and around corners. The girls have to stand in the lobby of the building while I bring the bag of poop down to the garbage cans in the basement (we have no outdoor garbage cans at the co-op, as a matter of policy that I still don’t understand). I can hear Cricket pacing and checking and sniffing under our neighbor’s door, to make sure that she is safe and sound.
Finally we get back to the apartment, and Butterfly begs for a treat and drinks three buckets worth of water, and Cricket’s throat is sore, and she’s out of breath, and she starts to look around and check in with herself and you can see that moment of confusion when she gives herself a sniff and realizes she forgot to poop.
Being a super hero is hard work, and requires a few sacrifices; just ask Cricket.