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Who Do You Sleep With?

Why some people are dog-tired (and don’t care)



Photo by Soloviova Liudmyla

Recently we hosted a dinner party, and when our guests arrived, Allie and Lucy, our Bichons greeted everyone enthusiastically. The dinner for eight began beautifully. The avocado and grapefruit salad and butterflied leg of lamb with rosemary were flawless. Wine flowed and the conversation was brisk, cordial, and animated. There wasn’t a problem we couldn’t solve. All was right with the world. 

As I went into the kitchen to bring out the chocolate mousse for dessert I overheard one of the guests ask the assembled group, “Do you let your dogs sleep on your bed?” 

Conversation stopped momentarily. Then, suddenly answers started flying, creating a seismic shift from politics, global warming, and Time’s “Person of the Year,” to dogs on people beds, pro and con. Voices were raised and faces reddened as opinions were passionately shared. 

One of the guests, a vet, shared her professional knowledge. We learned that most dogs sleep 12 to 14 hours a day, varying by breed and daily activity. Horses and cows may sleep only three or four hours. Bats and possums take the snooze prize, logging 20 hours of shut-eye a day. 

It turns out that dogs have sleep patterns similar to humans, and also experience dreams. “Adult dogs will spend ten to 12 percent of their sleeping time in REM stage, which is when they dream,” the vet said. “Have you ever noticed your dogs’ legs pawing at the air, or seen the animals quivering or growling when they’re asleep?” We all nodded. “They’re having doggy dreams and I recommend not waking them because the expression, ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ is apt.” 

We were all better informed but the question about appropriate sleeping arrangements remained unanswered. 

“Why should our dog have full-time bed privileges when our kids are only allowed in bed with us when they’re sick or scared?” offered one dinner guest, the mother of three young children.

“We used to let Shelby, our Burmese Mountain Dog, sleep on the bed but the rules changed when he started obsessively pawing the duvet to establish his territory. There was no room for us,” said a Wall Street investment broker. 

“When Buster was little everything was fine,” chimed in my neighbor, a nursery school teacher “But when he got his big-dog voice and started barking wildly in the middle of the night, Buster got busted. Now he sleeps on his dog bed. I still feel guilty. “I don’t” said her husband, to much laughter.

The German shepherd owner, a sports psychologist, perked up. “Razzle and Dazzle used to sleep on our bed. When nature called they went out the dog door, did their business, jumped back on the bed, and went right back to sleep. But I could never get back to sleep. Sleeping privileges on our bed were revoked!” 

“Too many romantic moments were ruined by Lily Bud, so my husband banished her,” lamented the Chihuahua owner, a serial volunteer.

I listened patiently as I served the mousse. Finally I felt compelled to enter the conversational fray,. 

“I must admit,” I said, that our dogs have no regard for our need of uninterrupted sleep. And though they’re small, they’re utter space hogs. We often talk about banning them from our bed but never have the heart to turn them away. They’re family and we need each other.”

 “Aren’t you concerned about Lyme disease?” asked one guest. 

“Of course we are,” I replied. “I had one of the first recorded cases of Lyme in Connecticut, so we’re vigilant. We check our dogs throughout the day and always before bedtime.”

Remembering my miserable battle with the disease, my thoughts drifted back to memories of Winnie, our first Bichon, who was my comforting companion throughout my Lyme ordeal. He never left my side. Every time I napped Winnie would climb up on the bed and snuggle next to me. 

Several years later, as Winnie’s life was slipping away he was no longer able to climb onto the bed. It was our time to comfort Winnie and reciprocate his devotion. We placed his favorite pillow beside our bed where he lay peacefully. He wanted to be with his family––his pack––to the very end. I honestly don’t know who needed to be comforted more. 

I took a sip of wine and exchanged a meaningful glance with my husband. “While we respect all of your opinions, in this household we let our dogs sleep with us. We live for their unconditional love, and they live for ours. Now, raise your hand if you want more chocolate mousse!” 

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