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Night Sweats and Howls

By Amy Palumbo-LeClaire

I’ve never been a fan of co-sleeping with my dog. I’m a small person with a surprisingly large wingspan. I need to shift from hot to cool sheet-scapes throughout the night, not to mention, I’m a light sleeper. Lincoln’s size, collar jingle, and high self esteem (he would irrefutably take over the King) wouldn’t work. That said, our family’s sleep habits have become somewhat peculiar as we age. Our needs have changed.

Born and raised in the cozy two-story colonial that he’s called home for nine full years, Lincoln, a senior pet, has grown comfortable with family routines.  He’s learned to pay attention to us and mirror our schedules. In the process, he’s shown remarkable gratitude for all that we do for him. He’ll lift his head and kiss me before he eats breakfast. He’ll bring me dishrags upon arrival home. He’ll wait patiently outside of the bedroom door, regardless of how late we sleep in on weekends. He’ll comply when scolded for beg-excess, and wait his turn. He even understands my work needs. “Lincoln, can you give me ten minutes and we’ll go play?”

Lincoln is sensitive. He aims to please and practices empathy, which is precisely why we’ve had to make concessions for his deep longing to connect with us All The Time lately. Sleep routines are no exception.

Typically, Lincoln rests on his side like a lion atop the off-white shag in the family room while we watch some light TV. The leonine habit, though majestic, has raised a brow. Will Lincoln ever sleep on his expensive orthopedic bed, one designed for his old bones? Thankfully, the problem has worked itself out. Lights out and he makes his way to the monogrammed bed and crawls atop—if and only if it’s properly made. Lincoln refuses to sleep on an unkempt mass of toys, towels and blankets. He’ll toss a glance over to us should the bed be unmade. So we fluff his pillow, cover him up, plant a kiss on his big sleepy head and say goodnight. The sight of our snug 90- pound pedigree is notably adorable. Sometimes we nest ourselves beside him and snuggle until he shifts and moans, love-crowded.

“Good night, Lincoln.”

We head upstairs. I brush my teeth, wash my face, and am just about to turn the hall light off when Lincoln surprises me. I gaze down the staircase and there he is, taking one feeble step at the time, determined to reach me.

“I just wanted to sleep with you guys tonight.” He reaches the summit and gives me a paw.” I remind him of his comfy spare bed in the foyer, a nice, plush Kong. Gentle persuasion fails.  He sneaks into our bedroom like an underage drinker and rests calmly at the foot of the bed, paws stretched forward at a parallel eleven. He is handsomely quiet and regal, an L.L. Bean cover-dog. “I’ll be no trouble at all. Love you, guys.” He smiles up at us and breathes evenly so that his pink tongue rises and falls to the decision. Tough love is no option here. Neither of us can tell the dog to leave.

However, just as Lincoln’s sleep habits have changed, so have mine. Due to Daddy’s (innocent) snoring habit, Mommy occasionally sleeps in the spare bedroom on the Queen. We kiss each other goodnight and proceed to quirky sleeping quarters: bros bunked together, the lady of the house tucked away in the purple room.

All should go well.

I wake up at three a.m., a recurrent sleep theme marked by the suggested daily water intake needed eight hours prior. I wash my hands raggedly and there it is: the familiar sound.

The grumbling rises and falls in pitch, gaining rigor before slowing down, yet failing to cease fully. I peek in to check on Lincoln. One ear flapped open and flush to the floor while he lies at the foot of the bed, leonine-style, he lifts his head to my shadowy appearance.

“Really??”

“You’ll get through it, Lincoln.”

I head back to my queenly quarters, flap open the down comforter and hoist the window up another inch to help cool down a middle-ager’s hot flashes. I lie on my back and think dreamy thoughts. Sweating profusely, I find a heroic, perhaps spiritual way to relax fully and count my blessings. I think about my Zumba classes and my upcoming hair appointment and the fact that my last manicure has lasted nearly three weeks. I think about upcoming vacations and new stories. I may be getting old but, damn, I’m aging gracefully. My heart and mind begin to enmesh like waves against a sandy shore. I feel myself dip and melt into a blissful state of sleep.

“Arrrrooooooooo!” I’m jarred to life. Lincoln, now on his own spare bed outside of my door, lets out a single yelp, an under-the-tongue coyote call that rings like a siren.

What is happening to my family? The unkind irony makes me even hotter. The only one asleep in the house is oblivious to the fact that we’re all awake. Will I ever sleep through the night again? My mind wanders. Did Lincoln sense a pack of coyotes trolling through our backyard? A waft of cool air reaches my face, enlightens me. Then, beneath a too-heavy, pink down comforter, the truth emerges.

Lincoln mirrors our habits. He can snore too.