Lying Down with Dogs

 |  Aug 17th 2010  |   16 Contributions


That handsome fellow in the photo is a Cairn terrier named Macduff. This California K9 likes his dog bed, but he loves his master's bed - and sharing the big mattress is a privilege he earns just by looking adorable (this comes naturally to him, as his photograph suggests). To compromise, Macduff stays at the foot of the big bed like a dutiful dog.

Unlike Macduff's slightly more disciplinarian dad, I'm a bona fide pushover. In my animal house - I live with 5 large dogs, which explains how I describe my digs - the pets pretty much rule the bed. The two eldest dogs prefer to stay on the floor, where orthopedic dog beds cushion their joints and promote restful slumber. This way, they're not disturbed by the jousting of the three young dogs, who give new meaning to the term "three dog night" by gradually marginalizing me off my own bed in their quest to get comfortable. Most mornings, I wake up to the sight of at least one dog sharing the pillow with me!

During the day, the dogs enjoy using the boudoir as an indoor playground, bouncing around and leaping on and off of the full-size mattress as if it were a trampoline. So, how do we still have a bed - let alone a bedroom - after all this daily (and nightly) aerobic activity? Simple: We arm the mattress from top to bottom, so it can withstand the assault of pouncing paws.

The first step to prolonging the life of your bed is securing a high-performance mattress protector that also acts as a barrier against stains, moisture, and allergens. This is especially important if you have a memory foam mattress, whose spongey squishiness makes it more vulnerable to getting drenched by liquid emissions and/or punctured by canine toenails.

To really give your bed an elegant finishing touch - and protect it against dust - cover the box spring too, with a fitted sheet or quilted cover.

Next, you want to be sure to use high-thread-count sheets. This is no mere status symbol: the more threads per square inch, the stronger your sheets will be, so they won't rip under the weight of a large, athletic dog with formidable toenails. Don't skimp on bedding: Cheap sheets are a waste of money and effort, as they'll be torn to ribbons in no time. And be sure to tuck those sheets in tightly - I don't know about you, but two of my dogs have become expert at un-making my bed when unsupervised, diligently stripping away layers of protection as if they expected the mattress itself to reveal a stash of liver treats.

Your comforter should be machine-washable and stuffed with fiberfill; forego feathers if you wish to avoid spectacular accidents resulting in a galeforce of goosedown. Dress the duvet with a machine-washable duvet cover - IKEA offers an excellent selection of these at reasonable prices - and keep a couple of extras on hand as backup, for those times when you need to make a quick change.

On top of the comforter, I recommend laying out a matelasse bedspread. This tightly-quilted cover forms a durable yet decorative barrier against dog damage, and it's an excellent buffer between the bedclothes that touch your skin and the dog paws that moments ago made close contact with the mean streets. Plus, bedspreads usually come complete with a pair of matching (or coordinating) pillow shams, which always come in handy. For yet one more layer of protection, consider a sturdy microsuede throw, which you can position at the foot of the bed to help your dog emulate Macduff by finding his proper sleeping place.

If you have a short-legged dog - especially one with a long body, such as a Dachshund - it's critical to provide a means for him to get out of bed without jumping down and risking crippling spinal injury. A set of doggie steps will do the trick, and they fold up neatly for storage under the bed when not in use.

Finally, keep a bottle of lavender essential oil in your bedroom. This aromatherapy staple is calming for both dogs and humans, plus it's a natural flea repellent. My dogs and I have discovered that a whiff of this delightful scent at bedtime can be very helpful in chasing away bad dreams.

Sleep well!

Photo credit: Daniel Reichert

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