Long walks on the beach and quiet meals are fine, but for true intimacy, for deep closeness, you have to sleep together, you know?
I am talking here, of course, about dogs.
I have always happily sacrificed a good night’s sleep for closeness with a dog. Before I was married, I slept for years on a mattress on the floor. All my old dog Toby had to do was walk into the bedroom and curl up next to me. No jumping required.
Then I got married, and subsequent dogs Boscoe and Riley slept at the foot of our bed. Rosie sleeps there now.
But Angus — Angus has his cage. His den. His kennel.
Call it what you will, it separates us at night. Every night, my husband hauls the crate up the stairs and I lock Angus inside. Sure, he’s in the bedroom with us, but Rosie is sprawled on the bed, books stacked high, reading light glowing, us within petting distance, everything all cozy and sweet. And Angus is across the room in a cage.
You can see where I’m headed.
Part of the bonding process is learning to trust, and I am convinced that part of that trust-building comes during sleep. A dog is defenseless when he’s sleeping, and if he curls next to you and lays his head on your knee and snores gently, you grow closer. He trusts you to not hurt him, to look out for him. And your heart softens because he is so vulnerable.
Angus loves his cage, and he runs into it happily when I tell him to. But I also worry about too much confinement — he’s cooped up all day when we are at work and then he’s cooped up all night, as well.
The kennel has been invaluable for housebreaking, and for getting him out of our hair when he is wild. I love that kennel and I’m glad that he does, too.
But at night … at night, I’m thinking, it’s time.
So the other evening Doug hauled the crate up to the bedroom, as usual. Angus dashed inside and waited for a treat, as usual. But this time, after tossing in a couple of mini-milkbones, I left the crate door open.
It didn’t take Angus long to emerge, hop up onto the bed and sprawl full-length next to Rosie. I didn’t sleep well, imagining that Angus was going to clock me by accident with one of his gigantic paws, but Angus slept like a log.
We tried it again a few nights later. Once again, when I left the crate door open, Angus shot out of his kennel and hopped up onto the bed. He put his head on my knee. He fell asleep. But sometime in the night, he jumped down. When I got up the next morning, I noticed that someone — not me, not Doug — had peed all over the bathroom floor.
So, what to think? Smart dog, choosing the right room in which to do his business? Or bad dog?
The bathroom got a good scrubbing that day. And that night, Angus was back in his crate.
We waited another week or two, and then we tried again. This time, in the middle of the night, Angus crept up and gave Doug a big puppy smooch on the nose, which Doug found so charming that I think Angus’ crate nights are over.
During the day, he’ll still be confined. But at night, our dog can sleep where he wants. And where he wants to sleep is with us — stretched out right in the middle of our bed.
Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune. She is not a dog expert, just a dog-lover, chronicling her puppy’s first year on these pages. 612-673-7302. @StribBooks Write her at email@example.com
Coming Sept. 15: Learning (we hope) to walk nicely on a leash.
Follow Angus’ adventures at startribune.com/puppy