Good Morning, Sunshine.

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How does your day start?

Big stretch as you fix that first cup of coffee? Check the headlines online? Maybe you go for an invigorating morning jog? Or maybe you’re the lucky soul who can find 20 minutes to meditate so you start the day in a calm, focused state?

Yeah. Me? Not so much.

My today started with several of our ever-vigilant dogs thwap-thwapping (trust me on that sound effect) out of our dog door at high speed and in full frenzy. Ahhhhh…the pleasant start to yet another day on Tails You Win Farm.

There are different levels of bark around our place and I know them all well. There is the “I think a leaf just fell somewhere in the back 40 acres” bark. That gets no response from me. We have no neighbors within 80 acres of our dog yard. Bark your fool heads off.

There’s the “HEY, did you know we have horses” bark. Yeah. I know. This bark also gets no response from me.

There is the “I’m barking and barking at nothing in particular” bark. This is generally Bernie, our adorable, but often vocal pit bull mix. He, as my father used to say to me in my babbling youth, is “talking just to hear his own head rattle.” Stellar parenting right there.

This barking gets no  response from me UNLESS it causes the other dogs to also join in the chorus. Then my response is to stick my head out of the back door to yell something along the lines of, “Bernie, shut the living (insert expletive you can only yell when you have no neighbors within 80 acres of your back yard) up!”

Mad dog training skills. I know.

There is, however, one particular bark that will have me bolting straight out of a sound sleep, grabbing shoes and a spotlight. Note: decent clothing optional. No neighbors…80 acres.

The bark that gets my blood racing faster than even a double dose of caffeine can accomplish is the bark that signals a barn security breach. All of the dogs will be out sounding the alert. All of the dogs will be racing up and down the fence. All of the hairs on my neck will stand right up.

A barn security breach generally means that the miniature donkeys have once again found a minuscule hole in the fence. Or that Ferris Muler, the giant Houdini mule, has pulled another how-the-hell-did-he-do-that escape.

A barn security breach also means that our distant neighbors may have had wee morning hour visitors. OR it may mean that Jim’s beloved garden may have been raided. This is probably my greatest fear. Neighbors be damned, but God save those animals if they wreak havoc with Jim’s late season tomatoes and still vine-ripening cantaloupe.

By now you have guessed that this morning’s bark-fest was the latter. BARN SECURITY BREACH. This is a five-alarm, get out the door to assess the damage before Jim finds it emergency.

It was still dark:30, so spotlight in hand, pulse racing, I stepped out on the porch. Morning moment of gratitude: tomatoes and cantaloupe all safe and still snoozing.

An eerie calm had descended on the farm as I rounded the corner of the house to see who the latest escapee might be. Did the dogs REALLY rouse me so they could go steal my spot in the bed? Apparently.

Just as I was about to call false alarm and head inside I heard a rustling sound. I called out a tentative hello into the pre-dawn gray. Nothing. I called again. “Hellooooo?”

And I got a hearty roar in return.

Yup. A roar. A friendly, happy, whatcha-got-for-me roar followed by a pleasant snort, snort, snort.

Jerry at the porchToday’s escapee was none other than Jerry Swinefeld, our resident 800ish pound hog. Finding Jerry roaming the space between the house and the barn was actually a relief. He is truly the lesser of the evils once you have determined the garden is still alive. While the donkeys and the sneaky mule might stubbornly opt for the grass-is-greener wrong side of the fence option, Jerry is generally more than happy to follow me to the barn on the promise of an early morning snack.

I called out to him just as my mom called out to wake me me every morning of my childhood, “Good morning, Sunshine!” I probably just grunted at her too.

My big piggy ambled over to me, gave me his special “uh, uh, uh” greeting and followed me like a happy puppy. A really big, muddy, drooling, happy puppy.

Oh hey…the gate to his pen was standing wide open. This was not an escape mystery to be solved, this guy had an open invitation to roam. Oops. (For the record…Jim was the last being with latch-capable thumbs in the barn…just saying.)

I gave Jerry a little snack. I said good morning to the assembling horses, donkeys, mule, and Bob the ram. I returned to the house victorious, relieved, and ready to face my day.

And yes, the dogs had indeed overtaken my spot in the bed. Hope you’re comfortable…hey, did I just hear a leaf fall? Psych!

I hope you, my loyal reader, got to enjoy your coffee and muffin. I hope you had a leisurely shower. I hope your day got off to a good start. All possibilities considered, mine sure did.

Good morning to you too, Jerry Swinefeld. Hope you have a nice day.

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