Sleeping with Dogs

toys02My dogs have their own idea of sharing. They do not understand the concept exclusive personal possession. According to the dogs, if it’s within their reach and if they want it, they get to have it. At some point they may decide to present it to me – somewhat chewed and well coated with slobber. And I get to keep it only until they decide to take it back again. Or play tug with it. That’s sharing.

Apparently dogs will share everything with their pack members and I am considered one of the pack. But that works both ways; I get the squeaky stuffed shark, and they get my shoes. I get the remnants of a well gummed rawhide chewy and they get a ball of yarn. The dogs don’t seem to understand that the things they share are objects that I once considered my very own possessions. I am, in this respect, more selfish than my canine companions, but then, that’s me. And so we share – in their definition of the word — a sock, my knitting project, a squeaky toy. And my bed.

I know that some people do not understand and are even put off by the idea of sharing a bed with a canine companion – or two, or even three. However, in many places, it’s a common custom. You may have heard of the three-dog night, a night so cold that the only way to stay warm is to sleep with three dogs? I’ve been there, although that night I only got two dogs and a cat.

The only way to really live with a dog is to become part of their pack, their family. There is some basic socializing necessary on both sides. Housebreaking is one, and dealing with the unique canine version of sharing is another. But it is a responsibility and an honor, I think, to be adopted into a pack.

My pack consists of Tomiko, an aged Akita; Taz, the Australian Cattle Dog; and PitMouse, a 7-pound poodle. Technically the poodle is not really a dog. At some point in his life he was possessed by a minor demon. Bizarre as this may sound, I know it to be true because this aspect of his personality manifests itself regularly. Nothing that small has that many large teeth or makes such hideous noises!!! (It has been suggested that I record him for the people who make the sound tracks for horror movies.)

Tomiko, at 100+ pounds, is too big for bed-sharing. She’d take up the whole bed all by herself. And, as my bed is at least 3 feet off the floor, she can’t get up that high any more. She does, however, make herself into a shaggy rug by the side of the bed and I have to step carefully when I get up at night. PitMouse sleeps in his own bed – actually the bed I bought for Taz which he has appropriated (another story) — unless it’s winter and unusually cold. I don’t heat my house unless the temperature gets below 60 degrees inside. When that happens, Mouse curls himself under the covers far enough from me that he won’t accidently get crushed if I roll over. I usually can’t even tell that he’s there.

Taz8moHEADAnd then there’s Mr. Taz Red Dog Underfoot. Taz is still a puppy at 10 months, and even this young is proving to be unique unto himself. Take our sleeping arrangements.

Now beds, for human beings as you well know, are designed with a specific orientation corresponding to the vertical design of the human body. People sleep with their head at the top (usually) and feet at the bottom. Attempting to sleep sideways doesn’t work very well as your head would hang over one side and your feet the other; obviously uncomfortable. I know; this doesn’t hold true for a king-sized bed, but I don’t have a king-sized bed because my bedroom is too small. In fact, now that I’ve mentioned it, I believe my bedroom is about the size of a king-sized bed.

But dogs, at least my dogs, don’t seem to understand the correlation between bed shape and the human body. I have noticed this on several occasions, and I have come to the conclusion that this could be considered a fact, or at least a well-supported hypothesis: dogs naturally orient themselves in what would be considered side-ways to a human being. A dog will invariably sleep with his head to one side of the bed and his tail end to the other. This can cause some difficulties when sharing a bed with his human companion. When I was younger and considerably more flexible, I would curl up in my section of the bed – and a single bed at that — the dog (at that time a Doberman named Lacy) sideways below my feet, and the cat (Lady Catherine Greywhiskers) on the pillow above my head. Thus we would thus snooze the night away. Now that I am older and have evolved certain rituals to help me sleep through the night, I no longer have the option of fitting myself into a small area of the bed. Those of you who know me know that I am tall, in fact too tall for a regular bed and rather more, er, fluffy than I was some years ago. I need my space. And so my worship of Morpheus includes sleeping sprawled on at least a full-sized bed.

IMG_0697Enter the dog. Taz has recently discovered that he could spring from the floor to the top of my bed – remember I said it was some three-feet off the ground. Since the poodle has appropriated the bed I bought specifically for him, Taz has decided that sharing my bed is a viable option. I woke up yesterday morning with his head on my shoulder and his nose inches away from my face. He’ll sleep tucked under my armpit, curled into the back of my knees, or sprawled over my legs. Taz weighed 41 pounds last time we were at the vet and he’s just about full-grown. He’s not as big as my Doberman, but he’s still a sizable dog, and he takes up a sizable space. I may have to get a bigger bed.

Which brings me back to the concept of sharing; the bed is no longer mine. As far as my dog is concerned, it is our bed. Of course I could put a stop to this behavior, and some people have actually asked why I put up with it. You have to understand; it’s difficult for me not to think of my dogs as part of my family. They are the constant in my life, the one relationship that will never change. They may, by law, belong to me, but I also belong to them. I am, as I said, a member of their pack, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Even if they do hog the bed.


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