Fido… Come… Sit
By Yvonne Passmore
I’m lying in bed, roll over and feel a chill. I pull up my low quality but warm, fuzzy polyester blanket to my neck and the sparks begin to fly. I smile thinking and reminiscing about my younger days and sharing a room with my sister. Way back then, the blanket sparks would have initiated a flurry of both of us tossing our blankets around to see who could make the most fireflies dance in the darkness of our room. Other times we would talk about our parents and their annoying rules, the cute boy that sat next to us in class and our dreams of becoming a world famous horse wrangler or flight attendant. The dark and bedtime was a time to bond, grow, and share secrets and fears.
These reflections started a conversation between my husband and me about whether we are doing our children a service by ensuring our homes are big enough for every child to have their own room. Is being alone in the middle of the night robbing children of the opportunity to really get to know their brothers or sisters? It’s hard to giggle uncontrollably under the sheets or get annoyed by the person who made that smell when you are all alone.
Being with your family and loved ones in the still of the night is a comfort for most of us. For dogs, it’s part of their natural social structure to maintain that pack during that most vulnerable time. Bedding with a pack also helps create and strengthen a bond. In the wild, it serves as comfort against the cold and protection against predators. Given a choice, both dogs and most humans prefer to go to sleep with that feeling of togetherness.
It saddens me to see dogs that sleep in the basement, or worse, outside, because there are some who don’t believe that a dog should share sleeping space with their pack. It’s another example of how people believe a dog should conform to the human’s way of thinking with no consideration for the animal they brought into their lives.
I don’t believe dogs have to sleep in a bed with their owners, but mine do. I don’t think a dog has to sleep in the bedroom, but most would prefer to. Some dogs are perfectly content to claim space in a hallway between the rooms of family/pack members. That dog’s comfort still comes from the noise of us snoring, tossing and turning throughout the night. That dog is surrounded by his pack.
A few nights ago, my Great Dane decided he couldn’t climb the stairs to come to bed. Physically he was fine, but he does tend to develop the odd unexplainable mental block about what he can and can’t do with his body. I gave up trying to coax him up the stairs and decided that if he thought he couldn’t get up the stairs, he could go sleep on his pillow on the lower floor. After listening to his howling and moaning, and still not being able to get him to move his body past the first two steps, I decided to spend the night on the couch. His stress didn’t result from missing his usual sleeping spot; it was the result of being alone in the dark. Once I was on the couch and settled, he lay on his pillow and quietly slept the night away.
Some may think that sleeping on the couch was above and beyond the call of duty. I think it was tending to a dog that I dearly love that was experiencing mental anxiety. As my sister did for me so long ago, it was my pleasure to help comfort, protect and dispel his fear.
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