b Papa Dog's Blog: Dog Sleeps in Mysterious Ways

Papa Dog's Blog

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Monday, March 14, 2005

Dog Sleeps in Mysterious Ways

When Doggy Dog first joined our family, most things revolved around him. Schedules, trips, configuration of furniture; nothing could be decided without first considering how it might affect the dog. As he would not entertain the thought of sleeping anywhere but with us in our bedroom, and since the bedroom floors are bare hardwood, we got him a nice doggie bed on which to enjoy his twilight repose, twitching his hind leg and sleep-barking at dream squirrels. He usually slept on my side of the bed, presumably because dogs are rather like British sergeants-major when it comes to devotion to hierarchy. Not possessing the ability to suss out the bottom line on a pay stub, he had identified me as the alpha and the leader of the pack. Duty required that he sleep as close as possible to my side should any night time emergency – a squirrel wandering in the window, for example – require him to spring to my defence.

Things changed when Baby Dog arrived. For one thing, her Co-Sleeper ended up on my side of the bed, which meant the dog bed had to find a new home. It’s a small bedroom, with the bed taking up most of the space. There was no room on Mama Dog’s side, and night time feeding required too much foot traffic around the foot of the bed for it to go there, so poor Doggy’ Dog’s little pallet got stashed ignobly under the bed. Throughout the time Baby Dog slept in our room, Doggy Dog slept where he could, getting displaced throughout the night as one parent or the other had to pass across the room. Doggy Dog bore this all with quiet and long-suffering dignity, all according to the dog-in-house-with-babies manual: get up, clack to other side of room, let out old dog groan, lie down, go back to sleep. Groan again if necessary.

When Baby Dog outgrew the Co-Sleeper, she started sleeping in the crib in her own room. Doggy Dog might have perked up when we pulled his bed out, but he probably noticed quickly our pondering glance at the Co-Sleeper. As it turns out, it’s a very handy thing to have at the side of the bed. All sorts of crap can be tossed into it that has no place elsewhere. Baby toys, for example. Baby blankets. Baby clothing. Baby pillows. Big people pillows. Big people blankets. That issue of The Nation I’ve been looking for the last week or two. All the other apparatus outgrown by Baby Dog – the swing, the bouncy chair, the old car-seat – has been relegated to the basement, but the Co-Sleeper is just too handy to banish. Upshot: still no room for Doggy Dog’s bed on my side. All is not lost, though. Because we no longer have to crisscross the room in the wee hours, it made sense to lay out Doggy Dog’s place at the foot of our bed which, come to think of it, is really the traditional dog sleeping spot according to many items of 19th century English literature to make my acquaintance over the years. During the day, his bed would still have to be folded up and put away (or, more likely, wedged hastily under the bed by foot), but at night he would have a place of honour.

That was the theory. Dogs have other ideas, though. During the no-bed period, he had taken to sleeping on Mama Dog’s side, the better to make her curse when she got up in the middle of the night. The space is very narrow, but he apparently decided it was his own. One hypothesis on this is that since she’s been out of work and staying home, Mama Dog has become Doggy Dog’s Main Person, supplanting me in my status of leader of the pack. The irony of this is that Doggy Dog's shift in his allegiance has coincided with my becoming the sole breadwinner and technical Head of Household (according to the IRS). Clearly, dogs do not understand the basic precepts of a capitalist society. The Curmunist Manifesto: from each according to who’s not looking, to each according to who’s home all day.

Dogs also have very different ideas about levels of comfort. Doggy Dog not only does not mind sleeping crammed into the narrow strip between Mama Dog’s side of the bed and the wall, he is markedly ill at ease if anything bars him from doing so. If I stay up late working on this dumb faversham, he’ll lie glumly by the bedroom door, pining for the moment when he can squeeze himself into his tiny little spot of personal space. If that’s not pathetic enough, somewhere along the line he developed the habit of lying with his head under the bed itself. There’s something very sad about the sight of his hindquarters curled up on the little rug, with his big thick doggy neck disappearing under our finely Amish-crafted kip. The other morning I was bending down to get my slippers on my side. I looked under the bed and there, across the dusty boxes of stuff whose nature has been long forgotten and the tumbleweed clumps of his own bygone fur, was Doggy Dog’s face, regarding me with watchful chocolaty eyes.

The heart wants what it wants, they say.* A dog will sleep where it chooses. Our dog chooses a tad strangely, and those more given to personification than I might detect a reproach in Doggy Dog’s self-banishment to our bedroom’s equivalent of the root cellar. I just think he’s found a spot he likes, that smells like him, and from where he can best get on with his duties of guarding The Woman through the night in his sleep.
*At least that was a philandering husband’s excuse on Desperate Housewives a while back.


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