When my younger daughter was an infant, she didn’t sleep. Not at night. Not at nap time. What she did was cry, especially in the evening, so I took it upon myself to diagnose her with colic. Thus, I had an explanation for why she cried and why there was nothing I could do to stop it.
The colic eventually passed, as did her habit of rising before the sun. She never took to napping, at least not until she went to daycare and was under somebody else’s watch. It took several years, but now she sleeps like a champ.
Over that long haul, I came to savor a good night’s sleep. And I’ve become adept at getting one.
But recently, Galen has started messing with my beauty rest.
When Galen was a puppy, Kevin and I let her hang out on our bed while we watched TV or read, but she slept in a pen in the corner of the bedroom. As she got older, she became less interested in the pen, so we took to bribing her with American cheese. One night, she refused the bribe. She looked at me, looked at the cheese, and didn’t move. I put the cheese under her nose so she could get a good whiff. Nothing. I picked her up, put her in the pen, gave her the cheese, and turned out the light.
Almost immediately, whining. Kevin and I ignored it. More whining. More ignoring. The whining got louder. Is a dog like a baby, we wondered? Should we let her whine it out? If we did, would she wake our daughters? How many nights would it take? Because we each had work the next day, we let Galen back onto the bed. We agreed to take a hard line over the weekend.
The weekend came and went.
Once Galen sensed she was on the bed to stay, she left the no-man’s land at the foot of the bed to nestle her fifty-eight pound frame up against Kevin. That proved problematic, because Kevin doesn’t sleep well. He tosses and turns and wakes during the night. Having nearly sixty pounds of dead weight inhibiting all that movement made his pursuit of zzz’s all the more challenging. He started threatening to put Galen back in the pen; she would whine, he said, but she would get over it.
I cringed. When we wanted our daughters to sleep through the night, we let them cry. But for some reason, I couldn’t do that to Galen.
Perhaps I should have.
A few weeks ago, Galen settled into a new night-time routine. She jumps off our bed at lights out and retreats to the family room to curl up in her crate. Then, around 4:40 a.m.—I think the delivery of our newspaper must wake her—she returns, lies next to me, and because I’m a side sleeper, she whacks me on the back with her paw. I give her head or belly a quick rub. When I stop, she whacks me again. And again. Until I pet her. If I stop, whack. This goes on until my alarm goes off.
If Galen persists, I may be inclined to do something I’ve repeatedly said I do not want to do: I might have to cancel the newspaper.
Jacki Skole is an award-winning journalist and adjunct professor of communication. She launched her journalism career at CNN, first as a news writer, then as a producer in the network’s documentary unit; she’s also produced programs for Animal Planet and HGTV.
Jacki lives in New Jersey with her husband and three daughters—two human, one canine. It is Galen, Jacki’s canine daughter, who inspired the journey that resulted in DOGLAND.
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