riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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Six Legs in the Bed

It should be no surprise to anyone that I sleep with my dog. I’ve blogged about giving up on crate training. I’ve posted a picture of her on the bed. Truth is, she’s been sleeping on my bed – and I’ve been receiving flack for it – practically since day one. My 84-year old father has been the most vocal about his displeasure, presumably on behalf of the entire family.

Him: “It’s just not right. Dogs should not sleep on beds, period.”

Me: “Why? Where is that written?”

Him: “It’s not written anywhere. It’s just common sense. Dogs are dirty and you don’t want that mess in your bed.”

Me: “But she doesn’t sleep in the bed. She sleeps on the bed.”

Him: “It’s not right, I’m telling you.”

Several months ago his tune changed slightly.

Him: “Well, it’s your bed. I guess you can do what you want with it.”

Me: “Thank you.”

Him: “But I still don’t think it’s right, and I don’t know what you’re going to do when you visit other people.”

Me: “Your concerns have been noted, and I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Of course, my father has a point. No one wants this dog on their bed.

Dirty Ruby

By now, however, she knows the routine. When we return home after playing down and dirty at the dog park or beach, she follows me to the bathroom and hops into the bathtub to receive a very thorough wash from head to toe without squirming or crying. I think baths make her feel better because afterwards she literally hops around the apartment like a gazelle on speed.

Like any little lady, she also always “bathes” herself – twice – at night and in the morning. There’s a reason why the three most common compliments she receives are: “beautiful… well-behaved… clean.”

Ruby sitting pretty

Shedding is another matter. She does leave little white hairs everywhere, but most of the time she sleeps on top of a blue blanket that I wash every week.

Rare are moments like the other night when I returned from brushing my teeth to find this:

Ruby hiding in bed

(For the record, she was still on top of the top sheet.)

Then there is the negotiation of space. I still sleep on the same side of the bed I did when Kaz was here. Ruby usually falls asleep at the bottom half of the bed, and uses my foot as a pillow. We shift in the middle of the night – me to my right side, she to a curled up ball behind my legs. We shift again in the morning – me to my left side, she completely stretched out (vertically) from one end of the bed to the other.

Sometimes she sleeps like this:

Ruby upside down

She continues sleeping while I shower, get dressed, prepare breakfast and put on my makeup. But when I enter the room with my usual “Good morning sunshine, time for breakfast,” I always find her lying on her stomach, bright-eyed, wagging her tail. I imagine she slowly wakes up to the sounds of me puttering about the apartment.

On the weekends, we both sleep in… until she gives me this look, which means it’s time to get up:

Ruby wanting to go out

I know it’s unorthodox. I know it will complicate matters if/when I start dating again (she will adapt). I also know I’m not alone. The lady who ran her Vermont daycare slept with her husband and four other large dogs (five when Ruby lived there) in the bed. And the lady featured in this 2011 New York Times article sleeps with a pot-bellied pig, two kittens and three terriers.

From that NYT article:

Figures vary, but according to a recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 to 62 percent of the 165 million dogs and cats in this country sleep in bed with humans, with other surveys skewing higher.

Another study warns that… allowing pets to sleep in the bed can be dangerous and can spread zoonoses (pronounced zoh-AN-ee-sees), pathogens that go from animals to people… They cite instances of fleas from cats transmitting bubonic plague. Catch scratch fever is a danger, too, they say, as are various forms of meningitis, Pasturella pneumonia and other infections.

(Bubonic plague? Geez.)

All I know is having Ruby on the bed makes me feel super safe. More than anything, I find it comforting and bonding. I think she does too, as she sleeps beside me wherever I am in the apartment. As long as we’re both parasite-free, wound-free, allergy-free and disease-free, I can’t see the harm in waking up to this every day. Can you?

Ruby sleeping and smiling


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Ruby 1

According to the Urban Dictionary, the phrase “road dog” means “close friend; a traveling companion that one is most often seen with; a person going with you during your travels.”

Example for using it in a sentence:
Guy#1. hey are you going to the national hobo gathering?
Guy#2. nah man I’m waiting for my road dog to get out of jail.

I’m waiting for my future road dog to get out of jail too, though in her case it’s a dog shelter in Long Beach.

I met her at a pet adoption fair last Sunday and was compelled to hold her. She was so calm in my arms that I almost started crying. When I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. The next day I emailed the shelter lady to inquire about adopting.

But am I getting her for the right reasons? And am I a suitable mom? Several things worry me.

1. I’m still grieving my late husband. Every day this week I cried on the way to work, and before going to bed. It felt as if he died a few weeks ago, not 17 months ago. I’m not like this all the time (anymore) but these sudden waves still catch me off guard.

2. I’m a writer who needs her space. Will I still be able to write with a puppy around?

3. I’m actually not allowed to have pets in my building unless it’s a service animal. My therapist is going to write a letter saying I need an emotional support animal (ESA), so we should be okay (unless she barks a lot or bites someone).

4. Do I have enough patience? Patience has never been one of my strengths, though I do feel like I’ve grown quite a bit in the last couple of years.

5. Am I prepared to commit to someone again, knowing that her life will be in my hands and one day I will feel the pain of losing her?

6. Will she like motorcycles?

I suppose time will tell. All I know is I miss having love in the house. I miss taking care of another, and I’m tired of thinking about myself (or the past) all the time.

This is a picture of my future road dog, Ruby. She’s the one with the white face, cocking her head at camera. Maybe one day she’ll be riding in a sidecar, wearing goggles, her little ears flapping in the wind.