Like any good Ridgeback, Oscar is a sneak and a clown and a stubborn mule when he wants to be, but due to many years of training, he also has excellent manners. One of his most endearing qualities is his refusal to climb aboard furniture until he has been invited to do so by a human (he can be overt to the point of hilarity about his interest in being up where the people are, but he won't so much as lift a paw onto upholstery without express permission). For his first 6 or so years, he wasn't ever given a chance to leave his place on the floor - it's only been somewhat recently, really, that life shifted for both of us, and I decided to amend our long-standing house rules...
I wrote about the circumstances leading up to this event - and leading Oscar onto the bed - in an autumn issue of the Somerville, MA-based arts publication, Inkseed, and while the full text is too long to post here, the accompanying illustration (above) and following excerpt should nicely sum up what has become a heartfelt topic for both Oscar and I.
"And then it happened. At the end of a particularly long, anxious day, with all traces of order seemingly evaporated, I looked at him, looking at me… the evening hour paused… and I asked Oscar up onto the bed.
If there is such a thing as a doggie double take, that was Oscar’s response. Incredulous, wary of being fooled into a trap, and listening to all his years of training to the contrary, he resisted (which mere months ago would have earned him a cookie on the spot). But I had made up my mind, and repetitious reassurances finally got him to leap up.
He likely spent that backwards night just waiting for the jig to be up; a dog that typically snores through even rugged nudges, his great head would pop up nervously every time I shifted. But I - like a lonely puppy in it’s first night crated solo will snuggle into the beating heart of a blanketed alarm clock - I wrapped an arm over him and let the steady metronome of Oscar’s breathing focus my own. I had broken a rule six years faithfully upheld, but in the midst of a great, grueling sea change, leaving the predictable in the past seemed imperative to moving forward.
...Over time, a new nighttime pattern took shape. There were kinks to work out, of course: invisible boundaries were determined to contain “sleeping dog sprawl”; a bed cover was appropriated to keep gritty paws off beloved quilts; and adherence to a new rule - dogs OFF the bed when the human rises in the morning - was required practice. But this novel routine was all ours, it belonged exclusively to Oscar and I, and tucking myself in beside velvet ears and the occasional groan of a beast settling into sleep became a beacon of comfort at the end of each day. Likewise, when anxiety gripped my chest tightly enough to startle me from sleep way ahead of my alarm each morning, I had a grounding wire to reach for beside me. My restless fidgets were met with sleepy brown eyes, and a yawn full of teeth who’s only concern was the hour of breakfast."
Change can be so good for the soul... All that being said - Oscar is not permitted to share the covers with me every night - nor does he want to! Amusingly, he has been known to refuse an invitation, in favor of his own (quite lavish) sleeping arrangement. I suppose, if dogs really do take after their owners, the battle of two bed hogs wears on the both of us sometimes...