Thursday, August 20, 2009


Dear George,


I was watching CNN yesterday about the terrible case in Georgia where a pack of roaming dogs killed an elderly woman and her husband.  They had an animal expert on the show who talked about about mentally ill people who take in large numbers of abandoned dogs or cats and let them live in their house.  The guy pointed out, of course, that the people don’t regard themselves as mentally ill, but rather as ardent animal lovers who are caring for abandoned pets who would otherwise suffer and/or die.


It’s a fine line.  Katja and I not taken in any stray animals so far, though we have been tempted on occasion.  Our particular pathology, instead, takes the form of showering Mike and Duffy with so many rewards and privileges that the dogs’ needs and wishes often take priority over those of the humanoids.

One good example is our family sleeping ritual.  I’ve drawn a map (below) which shows our typical dog-human sleeping arrangement (though there are various permutations from one night to the next).  As you can see, the dogs take up the lower half of the kingsize bed, lying horizontally rather than vertically in order to cover a maximum amount of space. 

The humans then arrange themselves within the constraints set by the dogs so as to not disturb or inconvenience them.  I normally sleep on an angle with my lower legs and feet extended off the side of the bed (see Human #2).  Katja lies sideways, with her feet necessarily somewhere on top of me.   When the dogs shift, we shift accordingly, though they normally shift to get more space rather than less.


There seem to be three principles that govern our collective behavior:


(1)  The dogs get in bed and claim their space before the humans.  They are ready to go to sleep soon after their 9 p.m. walk, and Duffy gets in bed first by himself.  Mike is capable of jumping into bed, but he doesn’t like to, so he stands by the side of the bed until I come and hoist him in.


(2)  Next, when the humans get into bed, they locate themselves in the spatial niche that is left over by the dogs and do not touch, speak to, or disturb the dogs in any way.  If the humans do this correctly, the dogs do not even notice that they have arrived.  Katja always goes to bed first, which gives her a little more leeway in finding a spot.  David makes do with whatever space is left over, usually about 15-20% of the bed.


(3)  Humans are prohibited from competing with the dog for space, pushing the dogs out of the way, or, God forbid, making the dogs get on the floor.  When one of the dogs does get on the floor by his own volition, the human is expected to try to call him back up before laying any claim to the vacated space.


Sometimes Duffy will hear a noise in the night and will jump out of bed to check things out at the window.  After a little while, he leaps back in, either on Katja’s or my side of the bed, landing on our stomach, chest, or face.  This is a startling way to be woken up, but we reassure Duffy that we are o.k. and it is not a problem.  Then we move over to make room for him.


When the alarm goes off, Duffy likes to climb length-wise on top of Katja, pinning her shoulders down with his front legs, and covering her with slobbery kisses (a practice which we refer to as "Lamour Lamour").  Mikey, less inclined to intimacy, retreats to the base of the bed, where he paws at my foot until I take it out from under the blanket and then licks it incessantly. 


We are usually pretty tired when we get up, though we are pleased that the dogs are well-rested.  One reason that we haven’t taken in any more dogs is that there would be no room at all left for the humans.  However, please don’t consider this description to be a complaint.  Our life is idyllic, and we would have it no other way.







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