I didn’t want the dog to sleep in our bed.
As a child I couldn’t sleep with anything near me. I don’t have a ragged security relic of my youth because no blankie or stuffed animal ever made the cuddle cut. I tried to love things–a small polar bear I called Puma, a pink Popple– but they all ended up kicked or thrown to the floor in the middle of the night.
I felt that the same would probably happen with the new puppy. I imagined punching the six pounds of him into a paste in my sleep. I imagined waking up to find our sweet new Schnoodle stuck and hanging from the drywall one morning, punted into mid-wall suspension by a violent night kick.
I also imagined being kept awake all night because of his soft breath on my skin or the involuntary muscle twitches of his sleep–the kind of normal sleep behaviors that still prevent me from lovingly drifting asleep in my husband’s armpit or even resting there for more than a minute or two. King-sized mattresses are made for married people like me who require an ample bubble to maintain sleep. Even with the chasm of space provided by a King, I often retreat to the couch or the guest room in the dead of night to find enough peace to nod off.
So the new puppy, adorable though he was, certainly was not allowed to sleep in our bed. I wasn’t so sure about him anyway. I grew up in a no animal household. I never pined for a puppy the way my younger sister did. I didn’t think about dogs at all. I wanted books. I wanted the internet. I wanted a video camera. I wanted the wood panelling of the basement to open to a portal to another dimension. Dogs were just the things that barked menacingly from neighbor’s yards, impolitely attacked my crotch when visiting friends’ houses or smelled like weird shampoo like the dog in a house I babysat at from time to time.
Unlike me, my fella loves dogs. Well, he loves animals in general. What he really wants is to raise a cat and a dog together to be best friends. And also to adopt a monkey. And probably some goats. And maybe a giraffe. I inadvertently married Dr. Doolittle, or maybe Michael Jackson. Because I loved Ryan in spite of his love for animals, after a few years of marriage I finally gave in on the pet issue. By giving in, I mean I told him he could go casually look at a some puppies one Sunday while I went to roller derby practice.
After practice, we had a dog. We named him Guinness.
During the day I got accustomed to caring for a pet. Including supervising urination and picking up turds. In spite of this, Guinness was slowly winning me over in that movie sort of way where a young child teaches a grumpy old man to care. At night Guinness whimpered from the corner of the room where he was crated, eroding all the goodwill he earned during the day. The only way to quiet him was to bring him into the bed.
If you think I am foolish for giving into a dog so quickly, so do I. But bear in mind that my pup has shockingly shrill vocal intonations. Our neighbors say he has a war-whoop. I call him a banshee. Even his more gentle whimper sounds like a small girl crying. Soft, sleepy breaths are more tolerable than the sound of small children crying. Guinness quickly got himself invited to sleep up in the bed–a sleeping arrangement that has lasted three years.
I feel even more manipulated by the dog nearly every night as my fella offers him a comfy place to sleep by his side, but with little variance Guinness aloofly curls his small body next to mine instead. He fluffs the blankets then situates himself at the crook of my waist, pinning me to a sliver of the mattress just wide enough to accommodate my human body. Guinness plants well for his now sixteen pounds of fur and bone.
Some nights I still find the feeling of this small dog sleeping next to me intolerable, and I push him aside forcefully until he gets annoyed with me and moves to a more centered position or chooses Ryan over the annoying girl who keeps shoving him. But most nights he sidles right up to me and passes out and no amount of interference will move him. If I get up in the middle of the night to switch beds because of other insomnias, he usually follows me and curls up near me again.
The feeling of a small dog sleeping next to me is warm. In the winter it is acceptably cozy, in the summer I curse him for radiating heat. I reach down and pet his smooth coat as I try to sleep. I rest my hand on his back and feel his soft breaths, the petulant sighs he emits in his dreams, and even the rumbles of nightmares that I assume feature demonic squirrels and evil rabbits. The feeling of a small dog sleeping next me is now familiar. While claiming a space beside me to sleep, Guinness also claimed me. Despite my disinterest in dogs and cuddling, he shoved his way to where he wanted to be, and I let him. Sometimes on that rare night when Guinn chooses to sleep next to Ryan, or even on the floor where it’s cooler on a hot summer night, I find myself reaching down to the empty space beside myself unable to sleep without the heat or soft breaths of a small dog sleeping next to me.