In the predawn darkness I open my eyes and stare at the bedside clock. The alarm is not set to sound for another 20 minutes. I roll out of bed and pull on my insulated shirt, trousers and shoes.
I sit at the desk to check the e-mail account on the computer. There are two messages: one from a friend referencing a political article in the press, the other from a colleague regarding a tense situation just beginning to unfold.
Before heading out to the gym for my morning workout, I shoot off a quick reply to the colleague, then sit back to scan the online article. I’m halfway down the page when I feel the pressure of two paws on my thigh. Our terrier has come to greet me this morning, hoping to have her ears and back scratched, as is her wont.
As I reach to pet her, she drops down on all fours and stands by the desk chair, close enough to allow me to stroke her fur while I continue my reading. When I pause momentarily to click on the link to the next page, the dog immediately rises up on her hind quarters and once again firmly plants her paws in my lap.
This small morning ritual continues until I’ve finished with the article. I click to close the browser, then rise to my feet to make my way down the stairs in the darkness to retrieve my coat, cap and duffel before heading out the back door. True to form, the dog yelps and scurries about the kitchen as I pull the door closed behind me.
The night is cold; the stars burn brightly in the clear sky overhead. I unlock the car, toss my bag in the back seat and climb in behind the wheel. Soon I am rolling down the street.
In the center of town I head north to the intersection where I will bear left to pick up the road that leads to the gym. I pass beneath leafless trees silhouetted against the night sky. Just above their tops, off to the left, I see a quadrangle of stars tilted at an angle immediately before the familiar three-starred belt of Orion. This is Canis Major, one of Orion’s hunting dogs, rearing up with its paws toward Orion’s thigh.