2: Bedtime with The Moose

2: Bedtime with The Moose

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

Bedtime with The Moose

Fun fact: Dogs make great heating pads because their normal body temperature is higher than that of humans — around 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

Walter Liddy aka “The Big Guy” aka “The Moose” is a four-year-old Mastiff–Presa Canaria mix. He is a big boy, solidly built, but under the mistaken impression that he is a member of the teacup variety. Walter was found wandering alone on the streets of New Bedford, starving, frightened and covered in mange. Like most rescues, this dog flourished with love and kindness, shedding both his fear and his patchy skin to become a solid member of our family. Technically, “The Big Guy” belongs to Brigid, our oldest daughter, who adopted him from a local rescue, but he’s a frequent flyer here at home base. He is our pet by proxy.

Walter Liddy is like many spoiled family pets. He begs for food (and usually gets it), makes himself comfortable on the furniture at the expense of one or more of his humans and is generally overindulged at every turn, but it is his bedtime ritual that makes this gentle giant unique.

Brigid had briefly described his new behavior to me. “Walter likes to sleep under the covers,” she explained. Big deal, I thought, but I didn’t fully comprehend Walter’s ritual until I experienced it myself one night last winter. Walter woke me from a sound sleep around 2:00 a.m. by standing on my side of the bed and looking at me intently through the darkness. My husband was asleep next to me. Walter let out a grunt, waited and grunted again. He was obviously trying to tell me something.

“Do you want to go out?” I asked with a bit of annoyance, wondering why he wasn’t asking his “mother.” Walter didn’t budge. Nope, that wasn’t it. Then I recalled Brigid’s words earlier. I lifted the blankets, and Walter immediately hopped up and dove under layers of bedding: sheets, blankets, and comforter — the works.

He slid his humongous carcass down to the foot of the bed, made a half-turn, plopped down, stretched out and promptly fell asleep. It was like having a third person in bed with us. I couldn’t believe it. “How can he breathe?” I wondered, as I tried to get comfortable again with no luck.

After that, it was a done deal. Night after night, this crazy dog roamed from room to room, bed to bed, squeezing in with a different family member every night. The routine was always the same: Walter Liddy didn’t want to sleep on the bed with his people; he wanted to sleep under the covers, DEEP under the covers. And once situated, he would remain there until morning, immovable as an oak tree.

One night, I heard The Moose get off the couch and walk to the girls’ room. I heard a loud thud in the dark as he attempted to use his huge cranium like a battering ram, but someone had inadvertently shut the door, preventing him from entering. I got out of bed and quietly opened the door for Walter to go in. As I stood there in the dark hallway, I knew exactly what this determined canine was doing. He stood next to the bed. He grunted and then waited, expecting the occupant to lift the covers and invite him to crawl in. That night, it happened to be his auntie Barbara, our youngest daughter. When Barbara didn’t respond, Walter gave another deep grunt, as if asking, “What’s the hold-up?” Now half-awake, Barbara groaned and said, “Oh, you gotta be kidding me.” There was a pause and then, “Walter, come on, get up. Uppee, Walter, uppee!” His collar jingled as he jumped up, and Barbara sighed, “Now go to sleep.” I heard the rustle of bedding, a deep satisfied canine groan, and then silence.

I peeked into the darkened room and saw he was completely gone, all one-hundred-plus pounds of him. Walter was nothing more than a slight bump in the bed linens. He had ignored all the extra mattress space available on the bed and was stretched out flat against Barbara, stuck to her like a pilot fish to a shark. She had gone back to sleep as if this was the most normal thing in the world, and for some reason that struck my funny bone. I began to laugh so hard I was crying. The thought that this dog had trained his family to do his bidding, in the middle of the night, with a grunt or two, was hysterical. I was just catching my breath when I heard his tail go THUMP, THUMP, THUMP under the blankets. From his cocoon, The Big Guy was responding to my laughter. He was happy and content with the world, his wagging tail said. It was a small but profound thing, and it touched my heart. I whispered a silent prayer to heaven that every animal could know such love and security. If I live to be a hundred I’ll never forget this silly, affectionate boy and the quirky, crazy habits that make him so precious.

~Liz Lombard

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