My husband and I are engaged in an ongoing contest over our dog, a Great Pyrenees named Monty.
The contest is over who will get up first every morning, because whoever does will have to pick up the messes Monty has made during the night.
Thus, when I awake, I always stay in bed, pretending to be asleep. I know that eventually one of us will have to break down and use the bathroom, and between the two of us, I have the superior bladder.
Like all dogs, Monty has a predictable schedule. His foraging in the garbage can and pantry always are made between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m. Though I usually am not awake in the early mornings, I know that is when he gets into the garbage, or chews up my flip-flops, or raids the pantry, because he could not do these things at any other time.
Between 5 p.m. and 1:59 a.m., Monty is barking. As a matter of fact, Monty is barking this very moment, as I write this column. It is 9:22 p.m. Someone passed by about an hour ago, taking a late evening stroll, and Monty has not yet recovered from the affront to his territorial rights.
Monty is so passionate about barking that he has no time for anything else during his barking hours. Thus, I know his garbage job begins only after the barking stops but ends before 6 a.m. because from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monty sleeps.
Monty's other job is shedding. While shedding requires little effort on his part, it is not by any means a part-time endeavor. Great Pyrenees have a lot of hair, all of it in some stage of readiness to fall in clumps wherever the dog happens to be at any given moment.
Great Pyrenees also are large. Monty weighs about 130 pounds, though my husband disagrees and swears Monty weighs at least 150 pounds, but everyone knows that men tend to exaggerate about such things.
In any case, it's unlikely we'll settle the question of Monty's weight since he cannot fit on our scale, so we will have to be satisfied with the conclusion that Monty is big.
In fact, when he stands on his hind legs, he is taller than my husband, who measures 6 feet (though this, too, might be a slight exaggeration).
When we first brought Monty home, he was 6 weeks old and furrier than any puppy we had ever owned. We paid the breeders and put him in the back seat with the kids, who fought over who would get to hold him.
The first remarkable thing Monty did, about 5 miles into the ride, was vomit on my son's lap. That ended the argument over holding Monty, since the privilege was immediately passed on to my husband. But it was a harbinger of things to come: Though cute, Monty was capable of a few unpleasant surprises.
We got Monty because we wanted a calm and gentle dog, one that would not run in the other direction when we called him, and for the most part Monty has lived up to our expectations. He is not much for running.
He likes to eat and bark, and afterward he likes to sleep usually on the couch but sometimes on our bed next to our rat terrier Lucy, who enjoys a good bark now and then herself.
I am afraid that, despite his many faults, we have fallen for Monty, and so we are stuck with him. I have been told that Great Pyrenees live to be about 10 years old, which means we have at least another seven years to go.
But all of our dogs have had unusually long lives, and our relationship with Monty could stretch out for another 10 years.
My only consolation is that most creatures become less enthusiastic about their jobs as they age, and so it's possible that Monty will be ready for retirement in a few years. I hope my bladder holds out until then.
Brigitte Bowers is a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program at UC Merced.