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Ruff Nights

By January Gordon Ornellas

My 107-year-old dog, Dixie (who barely looks a day over 98), has become sweet and mellow in her old age. This wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time, Dixie was deemed a “Nuisance Dog” because she may have gotten into a kerfuffle or two. This led to a court appearance, which resulted in Animal Control mandating that Dixie wear a nuisance collar FOREVER! 

(Sidenote: How about collars for “Nuisance Adults?”)

The whole thing was pretty unfair because Dixie was 16 at the time, and who among us hasn't made some poor choices in our teenage years? 

The good news is that Dixie eventually grew out of her antics and matured into an upstanding canine, who causes us little grief.

Until two weeks ago.

It started with Dixie waking ME (Steve was conveniently out of town) in the middle of the night. At first, it was just once a night to go to the bathroom. 

I get it, Dixie, our bladders aren’t what they used to be. 

But this quickly evolved into several times a night. Some nights, Dixie didn’t even go to the bathroom. Instead, she would just sit on the front lawn, staring into space, deep in thought.

Dixie, you don’t have any deep thoughts. YOU’RE A DOG!

Other nights, Dixie would head down the driveway, insistent on a 2 a.m. walk. 

“Get back in the house!” I yelled.

But Dixie weaved and dodged as I chased her up the driveway.

I guess I was “It.”

Under bushes, I scrambled. Across the lawn, I sprinted. It didn’t help that it was raining. At one point, she slipped from my grasp, and I face-planted on the grass. (Highlights of this footage can be seen on our Ring video).

An hour later, I managed to coax her inside. She immediately ran to the treat bowl.

“If you think you’re getting a treat for what you just did, you are sadly mistaken, Missy!” I folded my arms, so she knew who was boss! 

Then I gave her a treat and we called it a night.

The following evening, Steve returned from his business trip.

“If you want something in the middle of the night,” I whispered into Dixie’s ear, “Daddy’s your guy.”

At 12:45, Dixie scratched on my side of the bed. I groaned. “We just went over this, Dixie.” Then I picked her up, placed her on Steve’s side, and returned to bed.

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

I elbowed Steve. “Dixie wants you.”

This continued for several nights, with Dixie waking us every two hours. “It’s your turn!” “No, it’s your turn!” “No, I was just up, it’s your turn!” 

It was like having a newborn. However, at least with a newborn, that angelic face you gaze into at 2 a.m. cushions the blow.

(Dixie just read this and she’s pissed!)

Dixie you, too, have the face of an angel. If I implied otherwise, I apologize.

The second week, Dixie found new ways to amuse us at 3 a.m.

Instead of roaming the front lawn, she took to roaming the hallways. With her long nails and our wood floors, it was a steady stream of clickety-clacks, like we had a tiny Clydesdale prancing through our house.

All night long, Dixie clickety-clacked from room to room, in search of a bed that was just right.

Unfortunately, one was too hard, and one was too soft, so around 4 a.m., Dixie headed downstairs.


Both of us were wide awake and staring at the ceiling as Dixie tap danced across the kitchen tile.

“What is she doing?” Steve asked.

I sighed. “Looking for porridge?” 

Dixie soon returned to our room, but instead of jumping into our bed, she burrowed beneath it. There was some initial scratching on the box spring, followed by pounding, and then what can only be described as drilling. It sounded as if Dixie was building shelves under our bed.

Can Dixie operate power tools?

I put nothing past that dog.

The next day, in a sleep-deprived stupor, I took Dixie to the vet.

“She’s doing great for her age,” the vet said. “But she could be experiencing some Sundowning.”

The vet suggested we try either Benadryl, melatonin or hemp.

Unfortunately, the first two didn’t work, and Dixie refused to even try the hemp.

“Trust me, baby, you’re going to love it,” I said, holding out my hand. “All the other dogs are doing it.”

Dixie walked away.

Apparently, she says nope to the dope.

After another sleepless week, the vet prescribed something called Trazodone, which was supposed to reduce anxiety and provide a good night’s sleep.

Can I have some?

At first, Dixie wasn’t interested, but when I asked, “Do you want to make it to your 114th birthday?” she changed her tune.

Now, every night around 8 p.m., I slip a pill in a piece of sweet Italian sausage, and Dixie sleeps like a pup.

No more nocturnal Dixie!

But then last week, I tried to slip her pill in a hotdog, she gave me that look.

I ordered Sausage Trazodone, not Hotdog Trazodone.

So I immediately cooked her up some sausage because, let’s be honest, we all know Dixie’s running the show.

In fact, some might even call her the boss.

Just don’t call her a nuisance.

 January Gordon Ornellas 

January Gordon Ornellas is a comedy writer whose stories include everything from colonoscopies to triathlons (equally torturous). Her article, “Rookie’s Triathlon Lessons,” appeared in the LA Times (June 2019). Two of her other stories, “Gobble, Gobble” and “Almost Taken,” were recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Laughter is the Best Medicine (April 2020), and another four can be found in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Too Funny! (April 2022). She won honorable mention in the global humor category in the 2022 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition and is currently working on a book, Confessions of a Crazy Softball Mom. January also enjoys writing for her blog (, traveling and spending time with her husband and two adult daughters.

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