By Vincent Hernandez, MS,PA-C
There are two views about sleeping with your pets. The first is the belief that animals are not humans and shouldn’t be treated as if they were human in any regard. The thought of having a pet in your house or worse yet sleeping in bed with people can be both; offensive and unacceptable, if you hold this valid viewpoint. The second is the belief that pets are more than animals in our lives and is the expressed bias opinion of this paper.
For me it started when I was a child. My father would bring stray cats and dogs home and we’d frequently wake up as children with a strange cat or a dog in our beds. The cats migrated to my sisters and the dogs migrated to me. While we grew up understanding that pets were not humans, we accept them into our homes and treated them like family members. Luckily for myself, I never slept with a stuffed animal or needed a security blanket. Since I was six I always had real dogs to sleep with and keep my company.
I will not say that sleeping with my dogs was always an easy endeavor. I remember many nights trying to sleep when the dog took over my pillow, hogged up the bed space, or rapped itself up comfortably using all the blankets. Bed comfort frequently came down to who would be first in bed, me or the dog. I quickly learned that if I slept against the wall, that the dog wouldn’t be able to push me off the bed.
There’s a history about sleeping with “Man’s Best Friend” my dogs did more for me than just keep me company. They guarded me, keep me warm, were available for me to talk to when I felt nobody else would listen to me, and accepted me even if I didn’t make time to play with them. In my life dogs became my real best friends and their affect has made my life easier. I don’t view them as pets, I view them as guests and as a host, I do what I can to make them feel welcomed in our home.
I remembered reading about Colonel Custer routinely sleeping with 21 dogs at a time. At most I slept with four. I had three black labradors whom slept with me for years, when they heard a strange sound, they would wake up and investigate it. Later as they got use to the sounds, a loud noise would wake them up, they would lift their heads off the pillows, look at me and simply fall back asleep, which was their way of letting me know that I was safe and everything was alright.
One day my sister stayed over to watch my house while I was out of town. She woke up bounded under the covers. The dogs snuggled up against her on top of the covers and my sister was trapped by the dogs that wouldn’t get out of bed to let her up until they were fully rested.
Like most pet lovers, I have thousands of remembrances of past events. I also have unspeakable grief over my losses. For myself, I think the way I was brought up to treat animals reflects my true sense of humanity more than anything else I do.