32: Power Struggle

32: Power Struggle

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Power Struggle

Fun fact: A study by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center revealed that fifty-three percent of pet owners in the study said their pet disturbed their nightly rest.

I felt my husband, Loren, flip back the covers and climb out of bed. A dim light from the hallway disappeared when the bathroom door clicked shut.

Seconds later, I felt the mattress beside me sink down. I snuggled closer and draped my arm over his quilt-covered body, then drifted deeper into sleep. My eyes fluttered open moments later when I heard the elevated pitch of Loren’s voice.

“What are you doing? Get down.”

The reluctant lump beside me rolled over and plopped to the floor with a thump. The nails of my four-legged companion, Charlie, clicked across the linoleum as he left the bedroom.

Our eighteen-month-old Basset-Lab mix was engaged in a bit of a power struggle with Loren. Charlie considered no territory off-limits.

The next morning at breakfast, Loren said, “I don’t know what made him think he could sleep in our bed, and on my side. You notice he didn’t get in on your side?” I drew a deep breath while I considered my response.

Loren spread jam on his toast. “I just don’t get it. We’ve had him over a year, and he’s never done that before.”

“It’s not really his fault,” I confessed. “When you went to Oregon for your fire-department training, he slept in bed with me all week.”

Charlie stood next to the table between us, his ears perked. With a scowl, my husband stared into those brown Basset eyes. “Hmm…” Charlie wagged his tail. He looked at Loren and then at me while he waited to hear his fate.

Loren shook his head. “Well, no more, or he’ll have to stay outside. No more getting on the bed, no begging for dinner scraps at the table, and I don’t want him on the couch either.”

Charlie gave Loren a defiant glare. He lifted his nose in the air as he lumbered into the living room and leaped onto the couch.

Before he could plop down in his usual corner and rest his head on the arm, Loren waved his hand in the air. “Oh, no, you don’t. You get down. You’re spoiled, that’s what you are.”

Charlie lowered his head, skulked across the room, and flopped down on the rug in front of the fireplace.

Loren grabbed his lunchbox off the kitchen counter. “Sometimes, I think we work just so he can lounge around here all day enjoying the comforts we provide.”

I laughed, giving him a kiss on his way out the door to work. “Don’t be so put out. You love him, too, and you know it.”

Loren shrugged. “Well, let’s try to keep him off the furniture.”

By that evening, Loren had relented and let Charlie reclaim his spot on the sofa. “I guess I was a little harsh this morning, but I don’t want him on the bed.”

Over the next few years, the two developed a silent understanding between them, acknowledged only by a certain lingering eye-to-eye contact. As long as Charlie stayed off the bed, he continued to edge his way further into Loren’s heart. My husband may have protested his spoiled ways, but one evening I noticed him sharing his dish of ice cream. Charlie wiggled and wagged his tail while he licked the last few bites from Loren’s spoon. Still, my husband insisted it was a bad habit to allow dogs to beg at the table. However, as Charlie gained ground, even that restriction became obsolete. Toward the end of our dinners, Loren would hand leftover morsels from his plate under the table where an eager unseen someone waited for the tasty scraps.

The longer we had him, the more Charlie advanced from pet status to family member. Still standing firm, Loren maintained that our bed was a Charlie-free zone. On occasion, our beloved and persistent hound would sneak into our room for a quick snooze. But as soon as Loren discovered him, he escorted Charlie from the room with a gentle scolding. And so the back-and-forth battle continued.

That is, until I underwent unexpected major surgery and had to stay in bed for several weeks. Loren did everything he could to make me comfortable. One afternoon, with a sheepish grin on his face, he brought Charlie into the bedroom and hoisted him up next to me on the blankets. “I guess there’s no reason he can’t be on the bed during the day. But he’s not going to sleep with us at night.”

Of course, that final restriction didn’t last a month. From then on, Charlie jumped up on the bed anytime he wanted, rested his head on the pillows, and sprawled out in king-sized comfort. Finally, he declared victory in the battle for the bed.

~Kathleen Kohler

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