My good friend, Professor Geordie, burst into my office and announced, “Eureka, I have it!” I told him to take some penicillin, and it would clear up. “No, I know why River attacks Pocket in bed, and Toby bites my mom too!”
“Is it because my sister is a little bitch and your brother is a sneaky bastard?” I asked. That was the going theory.
“No, I have been talking to thousands of dogs and found a condition that is most prevalent in greyhounds but affects other dogs too. It is called the Sleep Startle Reflex. A dog, when woken suddenly, can, if the pup is so predisposed, attack without notice, or even realizing what they are doing.”
“River sleeps all day, often next to Pocket, and only attacks in bed,” I explained, questioning Geordie’s research.
“You have to be in deep REM sleep for it to take effect,” he said. “And that doesn’t happen during naps.”
I asked Geordie to show me his research. I pretended to understand and told him that he was a genius. We had to tell our siblings that they are dangerous, violent psychopaths, but only when they sleep: Understanding will ease their guilt.
I summoned River to meet us in her dreams, and when she arrived, I told her that I had good news; she no longer had to feel guilty about attacking Pocket in her sleep.
“I don’t feel guilty at all,” River said matter of factly, “I am quite proud.”
“Well, you can tell Mommy why you are doing it, so she doesn’t get mad at you.”
“Mommy never gets mad at me.”
God, that fierce-faced girl can be annoying. “Well, it’s something we can tell Pocket, so she doesn’t think you hate her.”
“Whatever,” River said dismissively.
I invited Geordie to explain his findings to River. She took the news, like she does everything, with a scowl. “Wait a minute, you mean I have some congenital disability that turns me into the night stalker.” Geordie triumphantly explained that was correct.
“That’s terrible!” River cried.
“I thought you would be happy to know you are not at fault,” I said.
“Why would I be happy? I thought I was the baddest bitch in the bed, and now I find out I am some freak.”
Both Geordie and I were surprised at her reaction. “Don’t be upset!” I barked. “This proves you’re a good dog!”
“I don’t want to be a good dog!” River barked. I want to be evil, with style and panache, like Roger Stone, but less effeminate. And don’t expect Toby to be happy either. We are a new breed of dog, the kind that is ready to rumble as soon as we wake up, and we will not be categorized as some byproduct of bad genes.”
River disappeared and then came back. We asked her what happened. “I was so startled by the news I woke up and attacked Pocket.”
“That goes to prove my theory,” Geordie boasted.
“Not at all; I attack because I’m a bad bitch, and Toby is a rough boy, and if anyone says different, they are going to find out how bad we can be.”
“It’s not like you can hurt us; we’re angels,” I said confidently. Then she lunged at us with such ferocity that we were knocked out of her dreams.
I asked Geordie if we should tell Toby. “Best not,” he advised, “if Toby finds out, he will start sleeping with a bow and arrow in his paw, twitch, and shoot my mom dead.” We didn’t want that.
At least we know their behavior is from sleep startle reflex and not from “Just Plain Nuts,” as I thought.