Do you sleep with your dogs? If not, why not? It is the greatest pleasure to have a warm body next to your own with absolutely no agenda except to love you.
I have always slept with my dog since I was ten years old and got my first dachshund, Rowena. She was a smooth haired black and tan standard-sized dachshund puppy. My parents bought a pair of them from a friend. One was for my sister, and she named her Heidi. I had recently seen the movie Ivanhoe and loved the lady Rowena, played by Joan Fontaine. The name sounded so romantic and unusual, so I gave it to my new pup.
How greatly loved that little dog was! She was mine for 13 years until she had to be put to sleep due to a killer urinary disease. That day was the saddest day. I was desolate until later in the day when my husband got me into the car and said, “I have never lived with you without a dachshund. I don’t want to start now. We are going to go buy a puppy today.”
And off we went. It was stunningly sad and bittersweet to be holding a puppy when my old dog had only been dead for a few hours.
We bought the puppy and named her Cinderella. We brought her home, and it was a help in some ways. But I learned an important lesson. My sadness was muffled, even hidden, by the excitement of a new puppy. Months later, I would find myself bursting into tears over the loss of my old dog even though I loved the new one very much. We all need time to grieve. It was a mistake to buy a new dog on the day I lost my first one. We need time to mourn the loss of something so important to us. If we don’t, the full force of grief will come back and bite us later. Pardon the pun.
Years later, a new twist in the fabric of our lives arrived from China in the form of a virus.
While cloistered during the early weeks of Covid-19 (the China Virus), my biggest solace was my dog pack. Three dachshunds make up my little herd. They love me with the unconditional love that dogs are want to give their owners. What a pleasure. No backtalk, no hurt feelings, no demanding money, begging for trips to the store, or even insisting on my time. Though they would be happy if I spent every hour with them, they accept my absences with equanimity. When I return, they are ecstatic.
Over the years, there have been so many!!! How sad the fact that we outlive them one after another. Despite that, I cannot imagine life without a dog. Yes, they can become a nuisance, but they can also be our greatest pleasure. Unconditional love is rare in a human. But it is the norm for dogs.
Who doesn’t need that? I cherish each and every one of the dogs I have owned. I miss certain ones with an aching longing. But that is part of the bargain. We go into the relationship, knowing we will mostly outlive our dogs.
When my mother was 99, she had outlived all of her dogs. One night she told us she was “lonely for a dog who loves me.” We got going right away to find her a dog. Initially we were looking for a mature dog. In the end though we bought a puppy who was 5 months old. We discovered that we had to put the dog in my name because breeders will not sell a dog to a 99 year old person. Of course we had no idea how long our mother would live.
One thing is for sure. For the following two and a half years, mother had a happier life than she might have otherwise because of that young dog. He bonded with her immediately. He slept in her bed when she was going to sleep. Later he would move to a chair outside of her bedroom door. He was the guard dog. He was serious. He protected her, and he adored her. When she would leave the house he would rush to a room that had french doors floor to ceiling. From there, he was able to watch her leave and return. When she died at 101, he was despondent. He grieved. He was deeply unhappy.
But now we are living in a different state out in the country. Dandy spends hours chasing the lizards that hide under the house here. He is determined to catch one of them one of these days. He sleeps in my bed at night. And while I write, he is often lying at my feet. He is enjoying his life with my other two dogs, and I notice that sometimes they lie touching each other, one resting his head on another. It is sweet to see their affection for each other. Dogs are nicer than people.