Advertisement

Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at tampabay.com/coronavirus. Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

For pet lovers, lying down with the dogs is the best way to sleep

For an endless series of endless nights, Karen Moriello had to put up with her husband's snoring. "Loud, rolling" log-sawing she calls it, and it mercilessly woke her up.

She kept poking to roll him over and pleaded with him for years to do something about the problem. "But he said: "I don't snore.' Nobody ever admits it," Moriello says.

So one night she stayed awake to catch him in the act. When the snoring started, she pounced on the culprit roaring next to her in bed.

It was Nifty, her Siamese cat.

Well, then the snoring was all right. Or as "pet people" would say: "It's so cuuute!" That's because sleeping with our animals is a great American pastime. And _ move over, darling, your dew-claw is in my eyeball _ nothing is going to keep the critters off our sheets.

According to a survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 40 percent of dogs now sleep in a human bed, up from 34 percent in 1998.

The Mayo Clinic, which tracks pet matters for reasons we'll see later, says that cats are even more likely to be on the bed than dogs.

So many animals are in bed with us that it's surprising Serta hasn't hit on creating queen, king and Irish wolfhound Perfect Sleepers.

Dziewik of Milwaukee could use one.

Dziewik shares her mattress with the impressive Mr. T-Bone, a Newfoundland who, at 150 pounds, endangers her inner-springs.

Dziewik and her husband, Gary, are both involved in dog shows, but she and her Newfie have a special relationship.

"Me and T-Bone, we got our own bed," she says.

The Porterhouse-sized Mr. T-Bone needs his room temperature cool, so Dziewik keeps a fan running in their bedroom. "He'll snuggle with me as long as he's not hot."

Because with Mr. T "hot" equals "slobber," the fan stays on all night.

Pet lovers know there's nothing strange about the sleeping arrangements; such accommodations have worked for millenniums.

Think camp mutts warning off saber-tooths for Cro-Magnon buddies. Think Australian Aborigines facing Outback nights so cold that it takes three dogs to keep one human warm.

"It's something that goes back to caveman days," says Christi Ahmen of Green Bay, Wis., who works with her dogs in shows and obedience trials. "If I'm sleeping something may happen, and with your dog in bed with you there's one more set of eyes and ears on alert. There might be a fire or someone might jiggle a door handle. The dogs are a good alarm system. It goes back to being safe and secure."

Pets have become what Moriello, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, calls: "very justifiably a member of the family. They're part of the family pack."

That squares with the way Milwaukee dog owner Holly Trimberger, who sleeps with two and sometimes three dogs, feels. "They are my family. It feels comfortable. I grew up always sleeping with my dogs, and it feels very natural to me."

Because the normal body temperatures of cats and dogs range from about 100 to 102 degrees, pets are living hot-water bottles.

When someone is sick in bed at Moriello's house, the call goes out for Sparky, who provides what Moriello calls needed "BTUs: Beagle Thermal Units."

Warmth, companionship, ear-licks. Waking up alongside a fuzzy face can have so many benefits that some pet guardians will do anything to keep their animals next to them in bed.

They'll build little staircases, stack milk crates or buy telescoping pet ramps at $129 a pop so that arthritic pooches and kitties can climb aboard.

Bowser's a bedwetter? Vets hear that the solution is not banishment, but human diapers.

Or, if their pets can't make it to the mattress, owners will take the mattress to the pets. "One gentleman I knew got a futon and slept on the floor with his dog," Moriello says.

Each pet brings along its own personal bed techniques. Dachshunds, for example, were bred to go down tunnels after badgers, and they attempt to do just that, even in less-primitive environs.

Barbara Teigen of Nashotah, treasurer of the Badger Dachshund Club, sleeps with up to four dachsies at a time and knows the drill.

"They like to go underground. I sleep with a sheet, a blanket, a bedspread and a comforter on my bed. Two dogs sleep under the comforter, one lies on top and one goes all the way under the sheets."

The burrowing can cause "incidents," however; once Ginger the dachshund fell down between the mattress and the footboard and got stuck.

Some experts say that a stuck dachshund isn't the only problem people might face if they lie abed with their dogs. For instance, a dog may think that once he's made it on top of the sheets, he's also king of the hill.

Sandi Sawchuk, a clinical instructor at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, says: "When you have a dominant, aggressive dog, a dog that growls when you go to move it, it should never be allowed in your bed. Having a dog on equal status with us can make them believe that they can control us. I had a client with a Westie that was very controlling and slept in bed with her and she knew if she moved he would growl. One day he was on the pillow and he bit her face severely."

Other dog experts see nothing wrong in snoozing with a well-behaved dog. Sawchuk sleeps with hers.

Says Rick Sasek, assistant director of training for the Milwaukee Dog Training Club: "I have no problem with it. You're bonding with your dog. You're creating feelings, and all those types of things are important in the human-dog relationship."

However, there are other hazards to offering your bed to Fido and Fluffy.

Their bedtime habits cause insomnia, says a survey by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, which found that 22 percent of the patients treated at the clinic may have suffered sleep deprivation by bunking with their pets.

Sleepless with your schnauzer? It could be caused by a lot of animal antics.

The Mayo Clinic survey said that snoring was reported in 21 percent of dogs and 7 percent of cats. Cats also are nocturnal predators, jumping off beds and bedmates to prowl at night. Pets can dream and when they do they often twitch, whimper and growl unabashedly.

Pet owners like George Dalton find that dogs can be not only their best friends but also their chiropractor's. Dalton's Lhasa apso, Heather, presses against his back so hard that he suffers a nightly backache.

Allergies can be another issue.

"If you have allergies, and you ask "Should the animals be in the bed?' I always refer you back to your physician. Cats and dogs do shed, and if you have an allergy in bed, that may not be a very good thing for you," Moriello says.

Hygienically, things between the sheets and the shelties can get pretty funky.

Meg Earsley, a computer specialist with the Wisconsin Humane Society, is awakened by her pug Mugsy in the middle of the night, not with a kiss, but "with a sneeze right in my face. She gives me a good spray."

Gas warfare, particularly stupefying when launched from a Labrador, can end sleep for anyone who doesn't have a really bad sinus condition. (Hint from Sawchuk: "Beano works."). The "F-word" _ fleas _ present a real peril for humans.

But what's a faceful of hair to real pet lovers? Those things mean nothing compared to the joy of hearing a soft sigh coming from a furry muzzle on the pillow next to you.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement