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Lying Down With Dogs
At bedtime, few rituals are as comforting as tucking oneself in with a gently snoring dog or purring cat. 
By Julia Szabo

Bed warmers A dog’s or cat’s normal body temperature ranges between 100 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit, so sharing the bed with animals is thermally efficient.  And for kids afraid of the dark, a pet is a dependable security blanket-infinitely more comforting than a night light.

The term “three dog night” originated with the Eskimo tribes of Alaska, who measured nocturnal temperatures based on how many of their sled dogs they needed to bring indoors to serve as bed warmers (three meant it was chilly indeed).  Of course, today’s pet lovers wouldn’t dream of making beloved animal companions sleep outdoors in the cold.  And those few holdouts who refuse pets access to the human bed are missing out on some quality spooning and cocooning.  What’s in it for the pets?  Plenty, experts say.  “Most people, when they’re in bed, are in a state of relaxation,” explains Carole C. Wilbourn, author of The Total Cat (HarperCollins, $14).  “Cats are so exquisitely sensitive to body language that they pick up on that relaxed feeling.”  As for dogs, “They like sleeping close to the pack leader,” says William Berloni, director of animal behavior at the Humane Society of New York. 

The monks of New Skete, whose training books are gospel for many, report that “in the hundreds of ‘problem dog’ cases we have worked with, 80 percent of the pets slept outside of the bedroom.”  Sleeping with dogs could save lives by decreasing the number of poorly-behaved pets abandoned in frustration at animal shelters.  At bedtime, follow these animal house rules: Metal or painted-wood bed frames are the easiest to keep clean and mattresses require a zip-up mattress protector plus at least one protective mattress pad (I like to use two).  Always keep a complete bedding set clean and ready, in case an accident necessitates a quick change.  For atmospheric flourish, sprinkle lavender essential oil on and around bedding: Besides promoting restful sleep, the scent is a natural flea repellent.

Published in Country Living Magazine
January 2005

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