I’ve never been in the habit of sleeping with members of species other than my own. True, there have been a few exceptions: the one-night experience with the snoring cat from Boise, whose name I never did catch, and the slightly longer but still clearly temporary relationship with Lucy the watchful chocolate Lab.
Otherwise, the various critters who have shared my household over the years were roommate acquaintances rather than intimate bed-sharers. The six or seven cats who came and went did most of their sleeping during daylight, lolling around the house all day and then going out at night in search of adventure elsewhere. Various other critters lived in cages in the rooms of various children, with occasional lapses. The guinea pig (Or were there two? I don’t remember—they all look alike, you know) escaped to precarious freedom inside the bathroom wall. The salamander sought sanctuary beneath a stack of towels in the linen closet, where I found its mummified corpse a few years later when we moved. The four uncomfortably large rats eventually drove their owner out of his own room with their gnawing and their odor, and in consequence they were banished to the garden shed.
But this past weekend, I found myself in a situation that got out of hand. As so often happens, it started out innocently enough. I spent a day and one night with one family of grandkids while their parents were off on a much-deserved short vacation.
The children are four, two-approaching-three, and one. Besides their sweetness, intelligence, charm, and general grandchild exceptionality, one thing that makes them so amazing is the way they go to bed. Willingly. Without fussing. When I carried the baby into her room at bedtime, she lunged toward her crib as if to say, “Finally! This grandma, who seems nice enough but is a little slow, has finally figured out that I’m sleepy.”
Once settled in, these marvelous children sleep soundly like little angels until morning. This, theoretically, means a spending-the-night grandma who is a light sleeper can do the same.
But there is the little matter of the two dogs. During the day—in between naps—one of them patrols the back yard and chases invading birds and squirrels. The other prefers to hang out indoors, but—in between naps—she has a frequent need to go outside and come back in. Opening the door for her easily adds up to a couple of hundred steps for her human minions; if she isn’t getting a commission from the FitBit people, she should be.
Given these busy schedules, it’s not surprising that the dogs go to bed as willingly as the children. This would be great for a spending-the-night grandma, except that the dogs sleep in the master bedroom. True, they have their own beds on the floor. And on this particular night, they were very well-behaved. They didn’t squabble; they didn’t bark; they didn’t jump onto the bed; they didn’t once ask to be let out.
But they did snore. In different keys. They also snuffled and snorted and coughed. Every now and then one of them—dreaming, maybe—scrabbled against the foot of the bed with its toenails. Several times one or the other either had to scratch a mighty itch or had to get up to stretch and shake itself all over. In either case, the process involved a great deal of collar rattling, loud flapping of ears and jowls, and deep sighing. One of them also sneezed periodically. The first time, half-asleep as I was, I automatically said, “Gesundheit!” Then I realized how silly that was—duh; I know perfectly well the dogs don’t speak German.
It was a long night. By morning, I was thoroughly convinced of the wisdom of my lifetime choice to limit my sleeping partners to the human variety. At least if they snore, one can poke them lovingly in the ribs and gently suggest that they roll over.
This does not mean I’m prejudiced or xenophobic. I am not a bigot. I am not a speciesist. I have a great deal of tolerance, even affection, for many members of species other than my own. It doesn’t even bother me if my children sleep with them. Just as long as I don’t have to.