Each morning around seven, I wander out to the kitchen to get things started. The house is quiet and chilly, and my eyes are still trying to wake up as I stop at the big window to see what the deer are up to out in the yard.

And then I walk over to the counter to make the coffee. I pull the machine toward me, open the top to remove the grounds from yesterday and reach into the cabinet for a new filter.

That soft rustling of the paper filter sets into motion a chain of events that breaks the peace and culminates, inevitably, in my backing into the corner to protect myself from the attack.

For every morning at the sound of coffee, Smoothie, the sheltie dog, comes racing toward me and, in a fit of panic, begins spinning in circles as he barks, scratches the floor at my feet and, if I’m turned away from him, leaps up at my bottom. Once not long ago, he actually bit me back there.

Smoothie does not like us to make coffee – not me and not the farmer either.

“I know we probably drink too much coffee,” I said the first time it happened. “But it’s none of the dog’s business.”

The coffee thing is the worst of a whole Pandora’s box of strange Smoothie behavior. He’s lived with us for eight years and still he barks at his reflection in the oven door. When the farmer and I argue, Smoothie runs in circles through the room. He doesn’t like it when we kiss, either.

But the coffee thing is the worst. The farmer has a theory about why the dog attacks us when we make our morning java. Years ago, we bought a bean grinder and used it while standing right next to the coffee maker. The noise was loud and aggressive.

“He thought we were in danger,” the farmer said.

Shelties (shetland sheep dogs) are herders, and the farmer thinks Smoothie was simply doing what he was born to do. Hearing that grinder just once was enough to convince him there was danger around that coffee maker.

And so every time we make coffee, Smoothie tries to warn us away. The farmer’s theory is as good as anything I would come up with.

After Smoothie bit me that time, I thought about shutting him in the other room so I could make the coffee in peace. But if it’s true that Smoothie’s instinct is to herd me, shouldn’t we let him?

Besides, when I’m the last one up, it’s nice to lie there and hear all the doggie ruckus; it means the farmer’s making the coffee, and taking one for the team. But with all that noise, who needs caffeine?

And when it’s my turn, I try to make no filter-rustling sounds. When that fails, I shush the dog. Sometimes I wait it out, hoping he’ll lose interest and wander away. That’s never happened. “Old Smoot” would be one excellent sheep herder.

“Go bark at the deer,” I’ll say when I know the herd is out in the yard. But Smoothie doesn’t take his eyes off of me until the coffee’s all set. Danger lurks in every pot.

By the way, we no longer grind our own beans. Imagine the carnage if we did.


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