As hard as it is for a control-freak such as myself to admit, I think we may be losing control of the pack, at least insofar as sleep rituals are concerned.
Although consensus does not exist on the etiology of the issue, I am of the belief trouble began with excessive middle-of-the-night toileting activities. First, dogs were asking to be let out around midnight. Then they added a 2 a.m. outing to the mix. The one thing we do agree on is, they have us on this one. The alternative involves more scrubbing than either of us want to engage in as a first-thing-in-the-morning ritual.
Mercy has since added a 4 a.m. rousting – not for the purpose of going outside. Heavens no, it is cold and dark outside at 4 a.m. Which makes it a perfect time to play squeaky-toy smackdown. Like clockwork, she is up and ker-plomping around the bedroom, snatching up squeaky toys. Contrary to her name, she squeaks them mercilessly, tosses them so she can chase them down and pounce on them with all the grace of a defensive lineman wearing a plaster leg cast. We have tried telling her, “Mercy, go back to bed,” but that directive doesn’t seem to exist in the small pantheon of commands she has chosen to heed.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have Presley, who is a very avid communicator. She uses a whine/bark combination, always in an escalating manner, to express her wishes. Obtuse as we are, she has found it necessary to employ this communication method to various tasks throughout the day. If her twice-day feeding ritual is off-schedule, a series of whines moving to short, persistent barks is all it takes to get us back online. When she would like to be released to the front to do her business or investigate the incessant barking from the neighbors’ weenie dogs, we are similarly informed. About two weeks ago, at 9:30 p.m., Presley began doing her whine/dance/bark routine. One of us got up from our position in the living room and walked over to let her out the front door. She stood there with that “stupid human” look in her eyes and did not move to the front door. She slowly sidled toward the bedroom.
K, always the more astute communicator, observed, “I think she is ready to go to bed.” Being the accommodating person I am, and the designated 4 a.m. playmate for Mercy, I acceded to Presley’s wishes and followed her in to the bedroom to get ready for bed. In the ensuing weeks, the 9:30 p.m. bedtime call has slowly inched itself earlier and earlier, so the dancing toward the bedroom and barking begins around 9:00 p.m. these days. I was remarking that 9:00 was a little early for even me, when K pointed out it isn’t if one is to be getting up every day at 4 a.m. As usual, she has a point.
A few days ago, when I followed Mercy out into the dark living room to begin our puppy calisthenics, I noticed a dark lump on the couch. As I crouched down and moved towards it, a single eye rheumy eye opened to return my gaze. Slowly and with a great groan, the pieces fell into place: after she ushers us off to bed each night, Presley assumes a resting place on the basically-no-dog couch and settles in for her beauty sleep.
I could go further and posit that her “plan” has been working insofar as she gets up and moves off the couch before Mercy and I rise for our 4 a.m. playdate, which explains the earlier and earlier calls to bedtime, but that would make her smarter than me and we all know that can’t be true, right?