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Awakened by A Wet-Nosed Alarm Clock

Have never been what you might call a "morning person." I have always been in awe of those who could bound from a warm bed with the sun's first rays, full of vigor, raring to go, while I burrowed beneath a quilt, content to snooze away a few more hours until the clock face showed something more palatable.

While I managed to find jobs with late-morning starting times and even told myself I was in a superior situation to those who were forced to arise before they were so inclined, secretly I was envious. I wanted to be one of those morning people.

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And I tried so hard to be one: setting my alarm extra loud, baiting myself with promises of an exhilarating morning walk, or even extra quiet time to read before scurrying off to work. None of the enticements worked.

Finally, when I got a job that had an 8 a.m. starting time, there would be no way around the early wake-up call, I thought. Somehow, though, I still managed to slap the snooze button for all it was worth. Then I'd have to leap out of bed and practically jump into the car, just to come close to arriving on time. I could see that conventional means of waking up weren't going to work for me. I would have to resort to drastic tactics.

Such as a puppy.

All first-time puppy owners are faced with a host of new situations that occur more or less all at once. Suddenly, there is something barking, biting your shoe-laces, terrorizing the cats, having accidents on the rug, and shedding in your car.

There is no gradual introduction, no casual get-to-know-you period. One day your life is pretty calm, quiet. The next day the kitchen table has teeth marks in it. Puppies also have a penchant for getting up early. And if they get up, you get up.

Such was the case with our Welsh Corgi pup, Corki. The first wake-up call for me came at 4 a.m., way out of my waking league.

But the first sound of her plaintive bark and my husband's gentle "someone's calling you" had me somehow tumbling over the side of the bed, groping for my clothes, finding a leash, and actually stepping out into the pre-dawn quiet. A new world, it was, with a carpet of stars and a stillness I had never found at any hour I happened to be awake and outside before.

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By the end of the summer, I knew most of the constellations. I had also seen a lunar eclipse and many other celestial wonders.

During the winter, Corki settled on a 5 a.m. rising time, which was perfect for me. Poring over seed catalogs, stoking the wood stove, and sipping hot chocolate in the morning darkness turned out to be some of the best winter pleasures ever. Having a few quiet hours before the rest of the household stirred was an incredible luxury.

Finally, for springtime we were back to our 6 a.m. brisk walk through the cool morning. Casual visits with other dog-walking neighbors and natural early-risers were a daily treat. I was on the dog circuit now, and it introduced me to many townspeople whom I had seen only shadowy traces of previously, coming and going.

My new life of early rising was so good, I couldn't imagine ever leaving it behind. Yet, a trip to Florida to visit my in-laws posed a serious challenge. With Corki boarding in a kennel and my husband untethered to an alarm clock for a week, I would have to rely on my own ability to rise, which I suspected to be in rather poor shape.

And so it proved. As I emerged the first morning somewhere around 9 a.m., my mother-in-law couldn't help but remark, "Thought you'd be up bright at 6 taking a walk outside, seeing all the plants and houses."

"I'm afraid not," I replied apologetically. My secret was out, or at least in the kennel. By the end of the week, all the extra rest was really getting to me. I couldn't wait to get back home, to be barked out of bed by my dog, jarred awake by the blast of cool spring air, face to face with the day and every new thing that it would hold for me.

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