Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sleeping with your dog.

Did you sleep with your dog? It seems to me one of my most cherished childhood memories is having my dog sleep on my bed with me. I wonder how many kids enjoy that experience today? Not many I'd guess. Today we know too much and are too wary of all the bad things that might happen if a child were to share the bed with his dog. But we lived on an old run down farm and our farm collie was just part of the family. I don't recall we every thought too much about "Digger". He was just always there. When we kids went outside to play, Digger was always there with us. And when we were in school Digger patrolled the worn out farm fields and encroaching woods. Somehow he knew when the rural school bus was due to stop at the end of our dirt road and drop off my sister and me and the neighbor kids and Digger would be there waiting. We'd all come trooping down the road toward our homes with Digger somewhere beside us. We never knew anything different. In the evening when Mom called us to come eat supper, Digger would position himself under the kitchen table. My sister and I could rest our feet on his furry back while we ate Mom's clam casserole. And when we went to sleep, Digger would jump up and lay across the foot of my bed. I could feel the weight of his body pressing against my feet. And that's just how it was. Our parents didn't think it was strange that the dog should sleep with us, or think it was dangerous. . That is until we moved. Life on the old farm changed and Mom and Dad bought my uncle's house in town and we moved. Mother was delighted to begin housekeeping in a nice house with some conveniences. And she intended to keep it nice and clean and respectable. As soon as we moved in she declared that dogs slept in the basement not in bedrooms. Digger was banned to the cellar. My sister and I made our way upstairs to our new bedrooms and the dog was ushered downstairs to the basement and Mom closed the door. Digger had a way of moaning and sounding a little bit like a lonesome loon. We could hear him whimpering down there in the dark. This went on for a couple of nights. But then one evening after supper when we were all in the livingroom watching Milton Beryl on the old Emerson TV, Ruthie and I saw Digger get up and every so quietly nuzzle the door open and slip upstairs. We didn't say a thing. When I went up to bed and into my room there was Digger lying under the bed. You're not supposed to be here, I told the dog. But that was all. I climbed in under the covers and Digger jumped up on the foot of the bed. Just like old times. When Mom made her rounds and opened our bedroom doors to say good night, she discovered the dog curled up with me, and she did nothing. I think maybe she knew there were some things she couldn't change even when living in a new house. Or maybe she thought the change in life style was hard on my sister and me and that some things however small should remain the same. At least Digger was allowed to sleep with us from then on. I remember all that now and wonder at how intelligent or clever that collie dog was. We have a little niece who for some strange reason has a fear of dogs. She cowers and retreats and begins to cry whenever she is near a dog. She's only nine. When I see her act this way I think of my own childhood and how our dog slept with us. I hope other kids have the same experience although I'm not so sure. Today we seem so overprotective and paranoid about things that might happen, even though they seldom do. Sleeping with my dog just seemed natural and correct. I know its one of my fondest childhood memories and makes me miss that old farm collie.

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