Sleeping with Dogs

When my dog was a puppy he slept in a crate, then he moved to a chair, then onto the bed. My husband would pick him up like a little lamb, when he came to bed after me, and move him back to the chair. After my husband died, Oliver moved permanently to the bed. I found it comforting, but more than that I also found it made me feel safer.

Oliver snoozing.

Oliver is a Tibetan Terrier, a 30-pound male with a good bark. Tibetan Terriers are not actually terriers but relatives of the Lhasa Apso and Shi Tsu, and they were originally bred as Tibetan temple dogs. They guarded the temple against intruders, sounding the alarm that would alert the larger fiercer dogs, who perhaps didn’t hear as well.

Oliver serves that purpose for me too, though I don’t have the backup fierce dogs. At my house in the country, he barks at anyone who drives or walks up the driveway, which prompts me to go to the door to see who it is. In the city, he barks when someone knocks. I don’t discourage this, although it can be annoying to people arriving. I have trained him to calm down if I tell him to, but only after I’ve determined who the visitor is.

He also barks when the phone rings, which can be handy since I don’t always hear it. This is also a response to a perceived intrusion. In my New York building, the doorman calls on the phone when we have a guest. Ollie associates any phone call with the arrival of a guest.

I wouldn’t rely on Ollie for other kinds of alerts. He is not a trained hearing dog. But we have an alarm system, and the smoke detectors are wired so that an alarm that goes off anywhere in the house sets the others off as well. Smoke in the kitchen, which I’d probably never notice from the bedroom, sets off the kitchen alarm (which I probably wouldn’t hear) and that alarm sets off the others. I’m pretty sure I could not sleep through the alarm ten feet from my bed. People with even more serious hearing loss than mine sometimes install alarms with strobe lights.

Ollie started out at the foot of the bed. Over the weeks after my husband’s death, he gradually crept up so he now he curls up against the pillows. (He’s not under the covers, and won’t be. I do have a few standards.) He’s a good sleeper and doesn’t bother me unless he thinks he’s detected an intruder, which in his case could be a deer walking through the yard or a bear knocking over the neighbor’s trashcan. I get up and look around, if he’s persistent enough. But mostly I mumble for him to settle down and I fall back asleep.

In the early months after my husband died, I’d sometimes mistake Ollie’s movements in the bed for my husband’s. My husband was also a quiet sleeper and when Ollie turned over or moved to a new spot, I would momentarily think it was my husband.

A few years ago, the Times ran an article called “Out of the Doghouse, Into the Bed.” The photos accompanying the story were very funny. The writer, Jen A. Miller, was reporting on a study from the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. The study subjects were 40 dogs who slept in the bedroom with their owners. The dogs wore a FitBark (an activity tracker, cousin to the FitBit) and the humans wore an Activwatch2, also an activity tracker, made by Samsung, and kept a sleep diary. People slept slightly better when the dog was not on the bed, dogs slept about the same.

Not all dogs belong on the bed, or even in the bedroom. But mine is a cosy furry affectionate watchdog. We both sleep better this way.  

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For more about living with hearing loss, read my books “Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better With Hearing Loss” and “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can’t Hear You.” Both are available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.com.

13 thoughts on “Sleeping with Dogs

  1. Sorry for the loss of your husband.
    Yes, I had several Lhasa apsos who were a lot like your Tibetan terrier.
    They make great guard/pets. Mine also slept on my bed after my divorce from my first husband.
    Now I have a wonderful calico cat who also sleeps w me but she would just be at the door meowing for the intruder to let her escape🤓.

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  2. What a fun and warm story about your fuzzy friend! My wee dog also guards the house at night from my bed. For years, I gave my sister a terrible time, teasing her about the fact she slept with her dogs on her bed. I am now guilty of the same thing, and quite unrepentant.

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  3. I have often tried to explain to those who’ve never lived with a cat or dog that my house is not a home without a cat, even if I don’t see him or her as I walk in. Will sound goofy, but they do change the entire aura of a place to make it more welcoming. I’m so very glad that your dog gives you such comfort.

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    • I have several close friends without dogs or cats, mostly out of necessity (allergies, etc(). I do find that they romanticize it a bit — and I’ve played in to that with this column. Dogs (and maybe cats) have daily needs that sometimes seem relentless. No deciding you don’t want to go out because it’s sleeting or broiling hot. You can’t leave a dog alone for six hours, so you always need to time your absence or make arrangements. They make messes in the house. They eat shoes and glasses and other important things. A previous dog ate a cochlear implant processor! But obviously we pet owners think it’s worth it.

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  4. I was very sorry to hear of Daniel’s death. I learned more from him in 5 days then I learned from many other teachers in semester – long courses. His personality was even more memorable than his lessons.
    Thank you, as always for this blog.
    With bilateral CI’S, even the loudest alarm doesn’t work. We paid well over $1,000 to have the BRK system installed. It kept malfunctioning — it seemed like always at 3:00 AM. Pretty traumatic for someone with normal hearing like my wife. The sound is deafening.
    Frankly, the strobe is problematic, too. Whoever made that standard was never suddenly awakened by a strobe light and then had to find things and problem solve while feeling like you are working inside a slow-motion, weird-special-effects movie.. I am not subject to seizures, but it hardly seems safe for a smoke alarm to use a technology that every theater warns you about before you enter..
    BRK stood behind their product for awhile. The sent replacement units. Then they blamed the electrician. I know enough about what the electrician did to call B.S. on that. Then they blamed me. I wasn’t keeping it clean they said. I bought an expensive blower to remove the “dust”. Finally, I just disabled the system.
    I see they have discontinued that system that combined the strobe with the smoke alarm in one piece. I won’t be buying their new one. Maybe, when my wife is not at home, I will borrow a dog.

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    • HI Roger, Thanks for the nice words about Dan.
      Yes, those fire alarm systems are a hazard to your health! Last winter I gave a couple of talks by Zoom that were live in other time zones. I had to wake myself up in the pitch dark to be ready to talk at 5 am. The only way I managed it was by basically staying awake all night.
      But you just gave me an idea for my next post. Earlier this summer I bought an Apple Watch — it works very effectively as an alarm. And it does a lot of other helpful things too. I’ll write about it next week. It’s expensive but a lot cheaper than that alarm system you mention.

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