White Dog shifted in her sleep so that I could swing my legs down. Nuka has developed a new ritual over the past week of waking right before dawn and scrambling unsuccessfully to gain her footing. I suspect her legs fall asleep from not moving through the night.
In this new twist to our dance of life, Steve carries the still drowsy girl out for a potty break and then returns to hand her to me. I cradle her like an infant and she rests her head against my heart. Steve instantly returns to sleep as I rock and stroke Another White Dog back to a place of calm...and eventually a slumber. I then gently lay her on the floor right against the bed (this place exactly she insists on) where I can reach down for a few additional minutes and pet her ears. Nuka, safe and at peace, goes into a deep sleep that carries her to breakfast call.
It is our moment, just hers and mine. I am so filled with the trust and love she gives me curled in my arms that I often tear up. I watch her eyes get heavy and feel her breathing slow to match mine and I think of the night we brought her home, angry and fearful...so snappish that Steve had to toss a blanket over her and wrap her up to get her out of the van. The girl that didn't like to be touched...or brushed...or bathed...or held; the one who would not even sleep in the same room as the rest of us. I softly kiss the shaved spot under her ear and run my hand slowly over her "Nuka boot". She grunts quietly and presses closer. I am tired for I am not an early riser and know that I won't return to sleep as quickly as the others.
But I would not trade this time or this exchange for anything.