You may be like many who lie awake thinking about big questions. What am I doing with my life? What’s going to happen to my kids? What time will the fresh donuts be in the bakery case at the grocery store tomorrow? Not me. My big question is Why did I ever start letting the dog sleep in the bed?
Most nights I climb into bed relatively early and often before my husband. The dog follows me, watches while I settle in, then dives under the covers and burrows up against me. Moments later, the cat makes his slow climb from my feet to my tummy. He makes his little nest and curls up with a sigh. And there they trap me until the sun rises and it’s time for them to eat. It sounds charming, I know. But is it smart?
Let sleeping dogs lie
To allow or forbid the dog sleeping in the bed is a surprisingly controversial question, not just in my marriage, but also in general. There have even been scientific studies with titles like “Sensory Proximity in an Interspecies Approach to Co-bedding: Understanding the Human Sleep Element When Practicing Multi-species Bed-sharing.”
Of course, every controversial topic has credible support on both sides. Those against claim having a dog in the bed confuses your dog’s understanding of your dominance. If your dog has parasites, you can be sure they will end up in your sheets. You may also be at risk of diseases, such as meningitis from your dog’s saliva. (Okay, I don’t want to know what those people are doing with their dogs in the bed!)
Those in favor of letting the dog sleep in the bed insist that the cons are hysterical and unproven. Assuming your dog is clean and healthy and you and your spouse agree, having the dog in the bed can have many positive effects. It lowers your heart rate, boosts your oxytocin, and helps you relax and sleep more deeply.
Marriage gone to the dogs
When a priest friend of ours heard that we let our dog sleep in the bed with us, he gently scolded us. The marriage bed is sacred, and nothing should come between you and your spouse. Even the children should not regularly sleep between a husband and wife. It was hard not to agree. There are many nights when I feel like the menagerie between me and my husband conspires to keep us apart.
At one point, I made a cozy little bed on the floor in the bedroom and began training the dog to sleep there. I was shocked when my husband argued with me about the decision.
“Look at those eyes!” he said. “Look at that sad face! How can you be so mean?” To the dog, “Mama’s being mean, isn’t she!” Then he slept with his back to me until I relented.
“That’s a good boy! Oh, who’s a good boy?” he cooed to the beast, ruffling his ears when I finally gave in.
So the dog sleeps in the bed with us. It won’t matter if researchers decide definitively that having a dog in the bed leads to Ebola, leprosy, bubonic plague or serial earthquakes in Haiti. Those puppy dog eyes will trump any logic or reason, including the absolute certainty that they sleep in the bed to keep us from escaping before the next feeding.