The watchdog’s barking wakes me up around 4 AM. I can hear him running around outside panting heavily and barking at something, hopefully not someone. Not wanting to get out of the warm king size bed I’m in, nor wanting to put my feet on the cold ceramic tiles that make up the entire floor of this house, I will the dog to stop barking. I wonder if I should be worried. Instinct tells me to not open the door or go outside. If there is an intruder, I’m safer in the house as there is iron covering every window strong enough that a crow bar would do just about the same damage as a toothpick.
It does occur to me that there are security cameras and perhaps I ought to check the video to make sure no one is lurking about. My stomach turns a little to think of that possibility. Especially because there is no landline here in this digitalized age of cellular technology and I don’t have a cell phone, holding off as long as I can because I love not being so readily available. I debate the cold floor and having to switch on a light, that abrupt and harsh slap in the face when your eyes have accustomed themselves to the dark. And up here in the mountains outside of Boquete, Panama, it is true dark at night. Out of fascination, every night I have been here after I turn off all the lights, I wave my hand in front of my face flabbergasted that I can’t see it. I’m in the Fort Knox of Panama; house-sitting for someone I met once. That one time being the initial meeting to make sure I was of the utmost quality of house sitter capabilities. She had me drive her SUV up the treacherous, roller coaster steep dirt road to make sure I felt comfortable in the massive hulk of vehicles. I met her dog, as well as the chickens, and got a tour of the house. I had come highly recommended by a mutual friend.
A little tidbit of traveling advice; take any and all house sitting gigs offered to you. It’s a great way to have some much needed alone time and maybe even get paid a little bit to do so. The perks of this place are that there is a killer view of Volcan Baru, there is a huge bathtub, I get a car to use, and there are chickens so I have been eating fresh eggs every morning.
I ease out of my warm cocoon and my feet feel around on the floor for my flip-flops. I stumble about like someone who has just gotten out of a car after a ten hour drive feeling for furniture to guide my way to the light switch on the other side of the room. I knock my knee into a table and curse under my breath as I move my hand all over the wall searching for the light switch. Finally I feel it and flip it on. I squint my eyes against the sudden glare and hear the dog barking again. I walk to the laundry room where the video is and look to see if something is amiss. I stare at the screen and start to think about horror films where someone would be in my shoes, or flip-flops rather, and suddenly see a fleeting image of something not of this world passing by the camera in the basement. It doesn’t help to know that the original owner died in this house several years prior. I shiver and force myself to think of other more happy ghost sightings.
Never having owned a dog and not being too fond of them either, I’m not sure how to get the dog to stop barking so I can get some sleep. I don’t doubt that perhaps he has woken up the neighbors at this point as well. I have zero desire to unlock the four deadbolt locks on the door and go outside to soothe the dog, perhaps pat its head a few times. This isn’t so much that I’m a little freaked out to leave the safety of this secure compound as the fact that the dog reeks. I don’t know how often he gets a bath but his dog smell permeates through the walls into the house even. I fear that in petting him, his smell will work its way through my pores and never leave; much like it’s seemingly done to him. I decide to stand on the bed and open one of the windows that line across the top of the wall. I call to the dog and tell him to stop. “Tranquilo! Be quiet!”
Oddly enough, it works. He walks over to stand below the window, I can’t really see him so much as hear and smell him. I shut the window and crawl back under the covers to assume my diagonal sleeping position. I have no idea the last time I slept in a king size bed and I feel the need to take up as much space while sleeping as I possibly can. The five-pointed star pose of yoga is a good one except I’m on my stomach rather than my feet.
The dog barks a few more times and I resign myself to not having a solid night’s sleep. I suppose the tradeoff isn’t so bad. I could be in a dorm room, in a twin bed, wearing earplugs, and cursing the person up at 5:30 AM rustling their plastic bags incessantly while they pack (the rustling of plastic bags at odd hours is a phenomenon known perhaps only to hostel dorm dwellers). I suppose the king bed, the bathtub, the barking dog, the fresh eggs, and the view is enough to put up with.