Crystal woke to the sound of her Newfoundland whining in her ear. Behind the giant dog, distorted sunlight streamed cheerily through frosted windows. Its brightness belied the sub-zero wind howling outside her grandmother's mountain cabin.
She pushed the dog's muzzle away from her face. "Damn it, Jake, it's barely morning. Give me a minute."
Despite her dog's snuffling nudges that urged her to get up and face the day, goose bumps sent her snuggling beneath the quilt. She hated the thought of leaving her cozy cocoon.
"Go lie down, Jake. I don't need a canine alarm clock."
The Newfie responded with a low woof before he caught the bedcovers in his mouth. With a few backward steps, the dog stole Crystal's blankets and rolled her off the bed onto the cold pine floor in an awkward heap.
"Ow! Damn it!"
She tried to be mad at Jake as she sat up and rubbed the pain from her bruised elbow, but as always, she found getting angry with him impossible. Overjoyed with his success, the friendly animal waggled and bounced, spreading drool and love in equal measures until he reduced her to a pile of laughter. Out of breath, Crys leaned against the bed as Jake flopped beside her and rested his massive head on her lap.
"You are a horrid beast, you know that don't you?" she asked as she fondled his floppy ears. "If you move, I'll get up and let you out."
The dog blinked innocently, then leaped onto the bed and settled into a black lump of fur and feet.
"You didn't need to go out. You wanted my spot. Brat." She tossed the blankets and quilt on the bed and admonished her lazy pet. "Don't drool on my pillow."
The wood floor nipped at Crystal's bare feet, making her aware of how cold the one-room cabin had become during the night. Her oversized T-shirt and worn flannel pajama bottoms did nothing to ward off the morning chill. With a shudder, she scampered to start a fire. Working quickly, she stoked the cast iron stove. When she finished, only three pitiful sticks remained in the bottom of the wood box. She would have to venture outside while the weather remained tolerable.
Her cell phone rang as she shut the door to the stove and hurried to pick it up. "Hello, Grandma."
"How did you know it was me, darling?"