Dogs in a blanket

No. Just no. Well, OK.
No. Just no. Well, OK.

It was just going to be for one night. Then boundaries would be established and enforced.

But the first domino had already toppled. Although Reese was not a planned adoption, I pledged on that winter day he acquired me as a sidekick to do all the right things to raise a courteous canine companion. On the long, snowy drive home, I composed a mental checklist, often pausing to replace the football-size Reese, then no older than 4 months, who had clambered from the passenger seat to my own. The list began with: The dog would not walk all over me. It ended with: The dog would sleep in its own bed. Well before we arrived home, Reese was napping in my lap.

You try to say "no" to that face.
You try to say “no” to that face.

I didn’t have time to procure a proper dog bed on our first day together, but I did create a cozy space for him alongside my own mattress, which at the time rested directly on the floor. Before I rolled into bed that night, I steered Reese into a blanket-lined box, which I cut down on one side for easy access. He circled, lay down, and curled into a ball. I slid under the covers.

Minutes later, I felt a presence beside me. I opened my eyes to see Reese’s face resting on my mattress.


He launched himself onto the bed. I scooped him up, put him back, and sat next to him and stroked him as he seemed to drift back to sleep. I eased myself into bed. No sooner had I pulled the blanket over myself and he was back, his head placed on the bed next to mine, staring at me with his big, brown eyes.

Is there such a thing as a "princess"-size bed?
Is there such a thing as a “princess”-size bed?


He shifted a forepaw onto the mattress without unlocking his gaze.


The other front paw.

“Don’t do it…”

He leapt onto the bed. I restored him to his box. This process repeated itself at least thrice more before I relented.

Fifteen years later, he’s still there. Fifteen years later, he still knows he’s not supposed to be.

Reese remains mentally sharp, but his age betrays him physically. His late-night attempts to sneak into bed between the humans are usually accompanied by labored scrambling and a heavy flop that are byproducts of hip dysplasia and arthritis. Despite the presence of more dog beds than we have dogs to sleep on them, including an orthopedic mattress purchased explicitly for Reese and that he has rested on exactly once, we nearly always let him stay.

Sometimes the humans have to take to the dog beds for comfort.
Sometimes the humans have to take to the dog beds for comfort.

Surveys suggest that about 50 percent of American pet owners share their beds with their pets, but I suspect more do so than are willing to admit. There has been substantial research into and philosophizing about the pros and cons of allowing a pet into bed, as if it is a simple right-or-wrong proposition.

Close contact with animals, such as petting them or laying next to them, raises levels of oxytocin, a versatile hormone that plays a role in social bonding and paternal (especially maternal) behavior, and in conjunction with other brain chemicals provides feelings of pleasure and peace.

But as a 2011 article in The New York Times pointed out, sleeping with pets can be dangerous for some people, particularly those with respiratory ailments or autoimmune conditions. Pets that are especially unclean or that are not safeguarded against fleas and ticks where appropriate can carry pathogens.


But most people keep their pets healthy and relatively hygienic, and the risks of allowing your furry friend in bed are minimal. Whether or not you actually get a good night’s rest is another matter.

The author of a 2015 Fast Company article cited a study indicating nearly a third of those who allow their pets in bed were awakened at least once per night by the animal(s). More than 60 percent of those who said they shared a bed with a pet more than four nights per week reported poor sleep quality. The writer compared his and his wife’s bed to a map of the United States, in which their dogs on a nightly basis colonize the Midwest “while my wife … clings precariously to the Atlantic seaboard and I try to avoid plummeting into the Pacific.”

Yet instead of booting these freeloaders off the bed and reaffirming our dominance, most of us contort around them and endure fitful sleep. Or give up and go to the couch.

Reese: A rare moment on an actual dog bed.
Reese: A rare moment on an actual dog bed.

Why? Because we love them, it makes us feel good, and—according to some anthropologists and behavioral psychologists—human-canine cosleeping may even be hard-wired into our DNA. There is evidence of people sharing their sleeping spaces with dogs dating back thousands of years in civilizations spanning the globe. Often this arrangement had practical purposes (warmth, warnings, etc.), though some seemed to just enjoy the company, and over time this joint sleeping urge may have become genetically encoded in us.

It’s not a far-fetched idea. In many cases, our instinct is to allow dogs in bed; we have to consciously remind ourselves that it’s our space. Whether the dogs win due to some innate inclination or because we’re suckers is up for debate. But I think Reese secretly knows the answer.

The couch works too...
The couch works too…

4 thoughts on “Dogs in a blanket

Add yours

  1. I grw up with dogs that slept in their own beds, up with my cats it has been a different story. When Cat decided to make my home mine and spent his first night here, he tried to tuck all of himself (5kg) under my chin. Any arrangement was going to be more comfortable than that, so he immediately acquired rights to sleep on the bed. I read your piece having woken up with MasterB asleep across the back of my legs. It made me smile. My cats have been expert on climbing onto the bed so stealthily I don’t know they are there until I try to stretch out, or in Cat’s case when he started snoring. If they want me to wake up I get the bouncy castle treatment. My friend Octavia is always flattered when her cat sleeps on her bed, which she does rarely. I think there is more to be written and thought about on this subject.


    1. I love hearing other people’s stories about this, especially the cat ones; they seem to find the most interesting positions. A college roommate (and still dear friend) adopted a kitten, which I would wake to sitting on my chest, it’s head near my mouth as if it was trying to suck out my soul (the cat eventually had to move to his parents’ house, where it had a long, content life). I’m not sure that qualifies as “sleeping with,” though. As my better half pointed out last night, Reese has a tendency to squeeze into a small space and curl up tightly at first, lulling us into a false sense of spacial security, then progressively stretch out, forcing us aside. It’s funny how often people note that their animals seem to sneak into bed; maybe it’s one of those things we all know is wrong but feels so right. I tend to share your friend’s perspective in that I’m gratified they trust us and feel comfortable enough with us to want to be so close.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: