She hogs the covers. She kicks in her sleep. She snores. She drools. A lot. The day I met my girlfriend changed how I sleep. That’s because, shortly after I met her, I met her dog.
Lucy is 10. In dog years, that puts her on par with most grandparents, Cher, Bill Clinton, Diane Keaton, and Pat Sajak. I have no idea how those people sleep, but I know Lucy sleeps like a buzzsaw in a tornado.
When I met Lucy, I was smitten right away. Her long eyes and floppy cheeks warmed my heart to its core. A mix of English Springer and Lab (we think), she looked like an old dog, but she acted like an old woman – equal parts nosy, affectionate, wise and curious. Part Helen Mirren, part Mrs. Doubtfire.
After courting my girlfriend for a bit, the time came for our first adult sleepover. I stayed at her place, in her cozy, but spacious, queen bed. The pre-bedtime ritual was pretty standard: change into Ohio State athletic shorts and ratty Optimus Prime t-shirt, brush teeth, kiss goodnight and prep to fall asleep. Only, there was a wrinkle. A black and white, 50 lb., wide-eyed wrinkle.
Before she could bark, “Get a room!”, Lucy had nestled into a rather intrusive lump in the middle of the bed. This had never happened to me before. I’d been blocked by noisy neighbors. I’d been blocked by alcohol. But I’d never been blocked by man’s alleged best friend.
I stared at Lucy, and she stared back. My girlfriend laughed. And I laughed, too. Lucy was a part of this, now. This was her bed. I was just a tourist.
Sharing a bed with a new person is never easy. Sharing it with a new dog is even harder. We think Lucy, during her younger days, was used as a puppy factory — a dog whose sole purpose is to procreate and produce adorable pups for profit. After they become barren, most dogs Lucy’s age are abandoned — or worse. To see Lucy play is to know that, in her heart, she is a mother. She has a whole crew of “babies” — standard stuffed dog toys — that are worn and tattered from hours and hours of licking, grooming, and unwavering attention.
Lucy takes her babies everywhere, and never leaves one behind, even if it takes several trips back and forth on her displaced hips. And at the end of the day, she collapses to sleep. She might start on the floor, but Lucy always ends up in the bed.
And Lucy's no soft-footed ninja. She struggles to mount the mattress, causing waves and quakes in the covers, then huffs and puffs and sighs while spinning around in a circle, finally discovering that perfect spot. Well, perfect for about 10 minutes. Lucy squirms and shifts throught the night. Whether she’s chasing bunnies in her dreams or trying to remind us (and herself) that she’s still a part of the picture, she never hesitates to wiggle into a new, comfier position.
According to the ASPCA, senior dogs like Lucy have a ruff (fist-bump) time sleeping soundly. Dogs who sleep more during the day — such as Lucy, who conks out like a fairy tale dragon — can become more restless and active at night. Some dogs start overreacting to things they once ignored, and sensory changes, such as eyesight or hearing loss, can affect a dog’s depth of sleep.
Sleep-wake cycles may also be affected by cognitive dysfunction or other types of central nervous system disorders – not uncommon amongst doggies who’ve led a rough life.
And Lucy is in good company. Her reality speaks to the inspiration for several fictional pups who can’t get a good night’s rest. Bruno, from "Cinderalla", shakes and jitters as he dreams of chasing Lucifer, the mischievous cat. Trusty, from "Lady and the Tramp"is introduced as a senior police dog who’s lost his sense of smell and spends his days on the porch sniffing, growling and squirming. And Chief, the hunting hound from "The Fox and the Hound" begins to talk, howl and twitch while he sleeps inside an old barrel. Lucy would be right at home among these well-drawn pooches.
My girlfriend and I have been dating for about seven months. Lucy's drooled on my pillows. She constantly keeps me up way past my bedtime. She's horse-kicked me in the balls.
But she’s also licked me and wrapped her paws around my arms. She’s laid right on top of me. She’s cuddled me.
The truth is, sleeping next to her has nurtured my capacity for patience. It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. And, sometimes, it’s downright exhausting. But Lucy is a part of my world — squirming, quaking geriatric sleep habits and all. She has a special place in my heart. And my bed.