I started with the best of intentions. As I scooped my newest little mate up and took him home as a tiny puppy I swore he would sleep in his own bed -- a wonderfully warm padded basket with blankets and soft toys.
But as I cuddled him, stroking his soft little ears after his first dinner in his forever home, we both fell asleep in the 'human bed' and the pattern was set for this pooch and his preferences for punching out zzzzzzzs.
Almost 9 years later I've just traded my old mattress for a plush new version. I have paid thousands for the multi-zoned marvel of all mattresses, and I've never slept better. Neither has Woofa. Right in the middle of 'zone three', tucked up behind my knees or lower back to be precise.
My workmates chuckle at stories of my miniature mutt manoeuvring himself into prime position, but I know I'm not alone in letting my four-legged friend indulge in his canine instincts to burrow, snuggle and seek the companionship of his pack through the cold nights.
What I have learnt, though, is even though we broke the first big rule, there are still rules. Dog rules. If Woofa could talk, this is what he'd tell you about how to co-sleep with your canine.
- Puppy Scarf: Human, at some point you will wake up wearing me as a scarf. You will be pinned on your back, I will be draped across your throat. You'll wake with a start, wondering why you can't breathe. Don't panic. I'm just making sure you don't catch a chill. I've got this.
- Dog Hat: Ditto on the dog hat. You will find me wrapped around your head. Especially when it's cold. It's really cool how your head gives off so much heat by the way. You are awesome. I also do this to stop you hearing thunder, because thunder is scary.
- Paw Contact: Regardless of how we fall asleep, during the course of our slumber at least one of my paws must remain touching part of your person at all times or I might freak out and think you've run away to buy a cat or something. I don't care which paw, which part of the person, or whether my claws have been trimmed. I love you. I must know you are there in case of bad dreams.
- Dreams: And on that topic, I will have dreams. Glorious dreams of chasing kangaroos through paddocks. Because dogs have awesome dreams, sometimes I will act these out. This may involve howling, barking, yipping, and pedalling my paws like I'm on a push bike. I get that this doesn't really work for you with the paw contact rule, but what's that thing you humans do when you twitch like you are falling as you go to sleep? Very disturbing.
- Snoring: When I'm not dreaming I might be snoring. Just little delicate snores. You can't talk. 'Nuff said.
- Electric Blanket: If the whole new mattress thing hasn't made this clear enough... what's yours is mine. In case you were wondering, I like it best when you put the electric blanket on a bit before bed so the cold sheets don't make me shiver. Also when you 'forget' to turn it off for a few extra minutes in the morning while you go to have a shower, that's ace. Best. Morning. Ever.
- Heat Cycle: I also have my own heat and cool cycle. First I climb into bed, snuggle and get hot. Then I stick parts of me out of the blankets -- usually an awkward combination of tail, nose, and tummy -- to try cool down. That won't work so I'll climb out and pant heavily, make a fuss about going to get a drink, and come back and flop down on the covers like I've just trekked through the Sahara Desert. Then I'll get too cold. Features of the cool cycle include; shivering, cold paws and nose, icy ears. I reserve the right to use aforementioned cold nose to lift the covers and slide in alongside you to warm up. The cold bits of the dog adopt slightly magnetic properties in the vicinity of warm human skin.
- Pillows: With all this manoeuvring, is it any wonder I get exhausted and need to rest my weary head on your plush pillow? Right next to yours. Looking you in the eye immediately upon your waking because I know I am the first thing you will want to see so you don't forget to feed me. If I yawn in your face, please note comments about dog-breath are hurtful and unnecessary.
- Spooning: This may mean occasionally we wake up spooning. Don't make it awkward. It's cosy, comforting and cute. And you love it.
- Stretching: When not curled up spooning, I will occasionally stretch. Possibly using my paws against you for leverage. You stretch too. Sometimes into MY space with little warning. I think if we tallied squashed tails, knee versus dog, and other 'accidental' contacts we'd be even.
So, Human -- now that I've got you trained, is it bedtime?
*Disclaimer: Woofa's Human can report he adheres to excellent hygiene practices with regular baths. Luckily for her, she is a 7kg terrier. Not a St Bernard.
This blog first appeared in September.