Drawing a Line in the Sand in your Bed
[This article is part of “Sleeping Between Giants”, a new series that explores life – if you can call it that – with a terrier.]
In a perfect world, dogs don’t sleep on the bed. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in Budleigh’s.
GIANT 1: “Honey, wake up! WakeupWakeupWakeupWakeupWakeup!”
GIANT 2: “Dave! What?”
GIANT 1: “Budleigh’s whining.”
GIANT 2: “So you woke me?”
GIANT 1: “He’s in his crate. Alone. In the kitchen. What else was I to do?”
BUDLEIGH: (Distantly) “I’m innocent!”
GIANT 2: “Well, you’re a grownup. Go fix it.”
BUDLEIGH: “I’ve done nothing! You have the wrong dog!”
GIANT 1: “But if I go, he’ll mark me as a sucker. You go. He doesn’t like you.”
GIANT 2: “What is that supposed to mean? Of course he likes me!”
GIANT 1: “Not like like. He senses that you have an agenda.”
BUDLEIGH: “I smell gas! I can’t breathe!”
GIANT 2: “Dave, I walk him. I feed him. I brush his coat. For God’s sake, I brush his teeth when I can get near them—ˮ
GIANT 1: “Sounding like an agenda.”
BUDLEIGH: “I can be a credit to the pack. I hunt! I kill without remorse! I’m terrier strong!”
GIANT 2: “Well, since he already hates me—ˮ
GIANT 1: “No one said ‘hate’—ˮ
GIANT 2: “—you go let him out. You two have a little doggie party at 3 a.m. and drink shots, and get tattoos. I’m going back to sleep.”
BUDLEIGH: “Damn your agendas!”
Allowing your dog to share the bed is no minor concession. Unless limits are clearly established, your dog can be quite demanding. In the case of a terrier, such demands are like those the Pharaoh made of the ancient Hebrews: “Do as I command or face destruction!” Coincidentally, that’s also the campaign platform of three Republican presidential candidates.
Before making any changes to sleeping arrangements, gauge your willingness to accommodate a dog by asking yourself a number of probing questions, most of which begin, “Why does this God damn dog…”
How big is my dog going to grow compared with how big I’m going to grow?
With most breeds, it’s fairly simple to estimate the limits of their full growth. But mixed-breed rescue dogs like Budleigh are unknowns. With proper nutrition, their growth is limited only by the combined military’s ability to destroy them. (See Clifford, the Big Red Menace.)
However, knowing that Budleigh is some sort of terrier thing made us confident that he wouldn’t grow any larger than a Mini Cooper. When our veterinarian first inspected young Budleigh, I asked him to predict his adult size. The vet spread Budleigh’s paw, caressed his ears, scratched his neck.
“25, maybe 30 pounds,” he snapped with the confidence of a carny worker.
“Just like that, you can tell? Don’t you have to, I don’t know, cut off his tail and count the rings?”
NOTE: Don’t joke with veterinarians about cutting off a dog’s tail. They look at you sternly and you don’t get the free doggie toothbrush.
By the age of two Budleigh reached his full size and weight – around 27 pounds, much of that from shoe leather. Because of his compact size and the maturity he had demonstrated except around shoes, we decided to allow him to sleep with us on a probationary basis pending the approval of Brisby, our bed’s canine union shop steward.
Brisby rubber stamped our decision, which he always does, especially during an election year and Budleigh joined us on the bed.
So I’m sleeping here. Then there’s this dog, And way over there’s my wife. That ain’t gonna fly, if you know what I mean. Any advice?
I’m not sure that I understand what you’re…Oh! Ohhhhhh! (Nervously tugging at shirt coller.) Okay. Okay, let’s talk about dog…uh…positioning, shall we?
In repose, dogs tend to encroach on their owner’s space in much the same way that the larval Alien creature “encroaches” on their victim’s stomach lining.
Animal behaviorists recommend either of two responses: Correct through training or give up. As a dog owner and pack leader, you’ve a responsibility to devote the time and attention needed to correct through training, then give up.
Training our formerly alive and exceptionally bright terrier Oxford was simple. He curled up at the foot of our bed, then when Denise fell asleep, he stealthily moved up and snuggled all night against her back. Not my back. So, problem solved!
Brisby was a different challenge. A student of Mahatma Gandhi and schooled in the tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience, he’d lie between us, then go utterly limp when we, or several hardy police officers, attempted to move him.
Though no bigger than Budleigh, Brisby could, through some complex rule of physics, increase his mass by 400 percent. Lifting him was like hoisting a locomotive with several cars still attached and drooping onto the track.
Gently but firmly pushing him worked no better. His neck would bend until his head was in danger of snapping its moorings. Guilt outweighed our comfort.
“He’s like a superfluid,” claimed my son, a mechanical engineer, as he once struggled to raise Brisby a foot above the bed. “He’s flowing through my fingers, then reforming out of a pool of dog.”
Eventually, Brisby claimed the foot of the bed as his own, probably annoyed that Denise and I radiated too much heat.
I’m not sure that constitutes training.
Budleigh sleeps between us giants. Training goes slowly.
GIANT 1: “OK, Budleigh boy! Time to move for nite-nite! Come! Come! Come!”
BUDLEIGH: “No, I’m good!”
GIANT 1: “ComeComeComeComeComeComeComeCome!”
GIANT 2: “Show him the cookie, Dave.”
GIANT 1: “He sees the cookie. He’s looking right at the cookie! Cookie, Budleigh!”
BUDLEIGH: “Any shoes?”
GIANT 1: “Give him a little push, Hon. Get him started.”
BRISBY. “Go limp, you fool! Go limp!”
GIANT 2: “I can’t move him. What’s he made of, depleted uranium?”
GIANT 1: “Budleigh! ComeComeComeCome!”
GIANT 2: “CookieCookieCookieCookie!”
BUDLEIGH: “Shoe? Shoe? Shoe? Shoe?”
BRISBY: “Keep hope alive, brother! I’m callin’ a strike vote!”
I call my terrier “Edgar Rice” because he “burrows” under the covers. Get it? See what I did there? Anyway, I could kill him.
Because of their tenacious demeanor, killing a terrier is at best a temporary solution and usually just irritates them. Better to understand the basis of this all-too-common burrowing behavior and take comfort knowing that even the most determined diggers will stop before reaching the Earth’s core.
Behavioristically speaking – which is best done in a stilted, British accent while polishing wire-rim spectacles – certain canine breeds are small-prey hunters. Digging into narrow tunnels to flush out rodents is wired into the very genetic code of terriers, dachshunds and, sadly, my Aunt Carla who, to her credit, kept an amazingly tidy pantry.
Convincing Budleigh that there are relatively few rodents in our bed and that those are strictly controlled is hopeless. Instinct rules. And if no vermin are to be found, at least he can take comfort buried in a confining space under 20 lbs. of bed linens without light and a dwindling air supply.
GIANT 2: “Dave, is that your cold foot? For the sake of God, please tell me that’s your cold, slightly moist, snoring foot.”
GIANT 1: “Hon, I’m in the bathroom.”
GIANT 2: “Ewwwww! Budleigh’s under the covers!”
GIANT 1: “I know. He’s been there for hours.”
BUDLEIGH: “Good news! No rats.”
GIANT 2: “Do you think it’s safe? Can he breathe?”
GIANT 1: “Yeah, I worry about that, too. Maybe we should put a canary down there?”
GIANT 2: “That’s a good plan, Dave. And maybe a little camp stove.”
GIANT 1: “And a portable generator with big, doggie-friendly rubber buttons.”
GIANT 2: “And an emergency whistle—ˮ
GIANT 1: “And a self-sustaining potato crop—ˮ
GIANT 2: “And Matt Damon!”
GIANT 1: “Naw! Budleigh’s black. The Academy will just snub him.”
BUDLEIGH: “Shoes! Don’t forget shoes!”
When a young dog permanently leaves his crate to take his place on the family bed, it is a cause for celebration much like a Bar Mitzvah.
“Today I am a Man,” they proclaim. “Only, you know, a Dog.”
And finally, until it’s needed again your dog’s cumbersome, old crate can be safely stored away. Under the covers at the foot of your bed next to the camp stove.
Sleeping Between Giants explores life – if you can call it that – with a terrier.
Your feedback is welcome, probably. dj
Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.sleepingbetweengiants.com, is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.