Thursday, February 9, 2012

Leaving sleeping dogs lie

Starting in late fall, we wake up almost every morning staring at a horizon of gray fur. And if the WPS gets up earlier than I do, I might also wake up to an eyeful of moist black nose propped on the pillow next to me --- or even more disconcerting, one big, unblinking cognac-brown eye staring steadily at my sleep-rumbled face.

Yes, we let Ben sleep with us -- since he was a puppy. . .  once he be could be trusted to not unload anything rated "X" on our 300-count Egyptian cotton. (Full disclosure: We've NEVER had 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets. I buy ours -- on sale -- at Fred Meyers.)

Now, this practice may appall you (dogs? sheets? all of the above?) -- or you may applaude it. But, in my books, it's all a matter of taste -- and ultimately investing in a queen-size bed (which we did, by the way, all for Ben).

Ben sleeping with us is no modest undertaking. While not in the Category Great Dane, Ben weighs in at about 45 pounds and is probably about 30 inches at the shoulder. He has those four legs to our two, and then there's his tail, which when unfurled, could probably power the Mayflower to Plymouth Rock at speeds of MACH 10 and beyond. Needless to say, we've all learned new and creative ways of curling up and/or stretching out.

Then we come to The Ritual. Ben's not the typical, happy-go-lucky dog who bounces right up into the Mother Ship, no questions asked. He has A Ritual.

Of course. Only Ben would have A Ritual.

It starts with him watching us gravely as we bustle about carrying out the last of our bedtime ministrations. Once settled in bed with our latest reads, we pat the comforter and beckon Ben to bed.

He makes it clear there are Things To Be Considered. Ben evaluates the sincerity of our invitation seriously, then turns to ponder his options, which appear to reside in the shadowy corners of our bedroom.

Hmmmm. Their bed? my bed? the carpet? the TV room futon? So many choices. Ben takes a moment to stare, long and thoughtfully toward the TV room.

But then, he stands and stretches, slowly and languorously, and glances toward us. A decision is made: Ben sits and proceeds to do a thorough and scientific examination of His Rocket.


During this servicing, Ben appears to make yet another decision.

Slowly and deliberatively, he looks up and makes his way to our south-facing, always-cracked window. He takes a long, meditative draw of the neighborhood's fresh, clean, cold air and savors it like a skilled sommelier, considering and processing its subtle, shifting nuances. Finally, with a snort, Ben deems the evening good and safe or, at least, acceptable.

He muses on his decision for a second or two. And then silently hops up on our bed, pads to its foot and curls up like a gray doughnut. Ben faces outward, ready to protect us from evil. At the same time, he keeps a bit of his shoulder touching the WPS, a bit of his haunch, touching me. If the WPS and/or I toss, turn and shift during the night, Ben re-orients and re-positions for touch. In the middle of the night, I can always reach out and find him for a quiet pat on the back.

Ben knows, he who descends from The Pack. And so do we -- when we wake up in the middle of the night and we need a moment of orientation or comfort.

It is about The Touch -- and who has your back.


  1. Love Ben's bedtime ritual! Georgia is the first dog we've ever allowed on the bed, and only when we're on it, only for an hour in the morning. (it was 15 minutes when we started, so I suspect this is not where it's going to end). I must admit I love spooning her.. My furry heat sac. So kind of you to buy a bed to fit the dog. We just squeeze ;)

  2. This is officially my favorite Bermtopia post! And not just because you mentioned Fred Meyers and gave canine genitalia a most hilarious title.

    We are on a very slippery slope with bed matters at our house. It started with the couch. It was a huge deal for me to allow Mason on the couch - only after 9 p.m. and when I spread out "his" blanket - because I've alway had a "no dogs allowed on the furniture" policy and was appalled when friends or family would come over and their dog would hop up on our couch, muddy paws and all, without anyone asking permission.

    Our bed at home is still off limits but when we travel we let Mason sleep with us and when he stays with his grandparents, he probably naps on the freaking dining room table. They've got little dog fever over there - our family never had a dog under 75 pounds and they're fascinated and smitten with Mason's big dog energy in a 16-pound package.

    I don't know if I'll ever get used to be able to pick my dog up. I'm sure in part because whenever I bring Mason up into my lap for some pets and cozy time, it triggers some sort of Rocket maintenance alarm. He gets right to business and I don't even think he can hear my protests.

    -Chandra at Daley's Dog Years

  3. Ben, you are my kind of dog! I get to sleep with my peeps too, but I keep it to the bottom of the bed and, puleeze Mom, don't sneeze! It's funny, but we have a ritual too--all centered around treats at a certain time determined by whenever Mom decides. Whatever.....

  4. This is beautifully rendered! I love Ben! I admire you guys!