Adriana sleeps under the covers. She has since she was a puppy. I’ve never discouraged her because sleeping with dogs is one of the greatest experiences of being a dog mom. When I crawl into bed, I slide her warm body against my stomach and spoon all thirty-nine pounds of her. Almost every night, she gets too hot and ends up somewhere by my feet, but for a couple hours we sleep fur to skin. By far, those hours are the most snug.
This little joy isn’t completely free of risks though. After all, Adriana is a dog who does dog things, like runs through poison ivy. She carries the oils inside on her fur, then transfers them to me. The rash has covered my skin from neck to bellybutton on several occasions. On several others, I found a tick crawling across the quilt. There have also been times when feathers from dead birds ended up between the sheets. Until last week, I thought I’d experienced all the dangers of sleeping with dogs, but I learned an entirely new one.
Late one night, sky still black, Mason and our three other dogs softly snoring all around me, I heard Adriana jump off the bed. She padded down the hallway and slipped out the doggie door. The plastic flap slapped closed behind her. Our dogs have access to our fenced yard 24-7. They don’t use it a lot at night, but it isn’t unheard of either. Somewhere in that zone between sleeping and waking, I deduced that Ade needed to pee, so my dog-mom senses never sounded any warnings.
We live in the middle of the countryside. The forest surrounds us on three sides. A country road runs past the front, and a bush-hogged field sits across the street. Instead of people, our neighbors include owls, fox, opossums, raccoons, turkey buzzards, deer, groundhogs, coyotes, squirrels, frogs, lizards, and rabbits. Occasionally, these critters venture into our yard. Once, a fox slipped through a square in the chain-link fence and stole dog toys. In late autumn, after the leaves fell, we busted him when we saw the impressive stash he had piled outside his hole.
The plastic flap whapping closed woke me again. I must have snoozed while Ade was outside because it seemed like seconds, but the coldness of the sheets proved it had been longer. As she pranced back down the hallway, I heard her collar’s distinctive jingle. She jumped on the bed, tunneled under the covers, and settled next to my knees. Just like I had a few hours earlier, I reached for her, slid her against my chest, and cuddled her body’s warmth. The soft hair on her ears brushed against my chin.
Feeling the tug of a deep, dream-filled sleep, I hugged her tighter and inhaled. I fully expected the fresh scent of dewy grass, but that’s not what I smelled. I smelled poop. It was the remnant of a dream, I told myself, but that stench didn’t support my theory. Inhaling again, I breathed deeper, hoping with all my might I had imagined it. Nope. I hadn’t imagined anything. Adriana was covered in poo.
I flipped on the lights. The pitch-black scat of a groundhog or a fox was smeared across her ruff, ribcage, and flank. She had rolled in it. Hell. She was so filthy it looked like she had frolicked in it. And she was pleased too, thumping her tail twice when we made eye contact. She looked so innocent that if I couldn’t see and smell the poop all over her, I would have called her my little angel.
At 3:35 AM, as Mason was giving Ade a bath and I was stripping sheets, I wondered if sleeping with dogs was the best idea. But seconds after that thought formed, another one smashed it into oblivion. It doesn’t matter if my dog rolls in poop or carries poison ivy and ticks inside the house. For me, sleeping with Adriana is worth all of the dangers. And that’s how I know I’m dog mom AF.