Pets in bed: Owners who sleep with their pets say it's comforting, so they sleep better
Travis Young is not surprised that a recent survey shows that snuggling with a pet throughout the night can make a person feel more safe and secure.
He saw it firsthand when his son Riley, 10, began sleeping with Jasper, their 16-pound Terrier mix.
"We had trouble getting Riley to sleep by himself in his own room after living in a one-bedroom apartment during a move," says Young, owner of Scenic City European Import Auto Sales in Chattanooga. "He would demand someone sleep in the room with him and we were running out of solutions. We came up with the idea that the dog could sleep with him and it worked."
Young says Jasper, who's 8, "curls in a ball' next to Riley's pillow.
"I'm pretty sure (Riley) drags him up there," says Young. "I'm not worried about it hurting Jasper — he is the boss of the house and roughs up our 80-pound Lab mix."
The survey, conducted by Mayo Clinic's Center of Sleep Medicine, showed that sleeping with pets helped owners get a better night's sleep.
"Many pet owners view companion animals as family members that they wish to incorporate into as many aspects of their life as possible," the survey notes. "Because humans spend considerable time sleeping, a pet owner's desire to have animals close at night is understandable."
Twenty percent of pet owners surveyed said having their pet in the bedroom was disruptive to their sleep while 41 percent claimed it was beneficial.
And it's pretty obvious that most pets enjoy snuggling with their owners.
Jasper is no exception.
"He is very nimble and can jump in the bed, usually hanging out in the bed with my wife until he hears me tucking Riley in and comes into his room," Young says.
Local attorney Lucy Wright says Pierre, her 5-year-old Chihuahua mix, began sleeping with her from the moment she first adopted him from the Humane Educational Society in August 2014.
"I have always allowed pets to sleep in my bed," she says, admitting that she and Pierre "spoon."
"There are no words to describe my devotion to my pet," she says.
Pierre likes to bury himself under the covers and rarely moves throughout the night, she says. "I'm not concerned I will roll over him," she says. "My bed is low and he can get off and on with no help."
While small dogs like Jasper and Pierre take up little room, that's not the case of Murdock, a 98-pound Great Dane who sleeps with owners Brian Heisner and his wife, Natalie Krkljus, of McDonald, Tenn.
"We've had animals sleeping in our bed since 1995 when we first moved in together," says Krkljus, an emergency veterinary technician who will graduate from nursing school in May.
The couple have nine pets, all cats and dogs, and on any given night, there will be at least a few pets in their bed.
"The cats slept with us from the moment they were brought home. The dogs were first crate-trained and then transitioned to bed once potty-trained," she says.
"It's not the same without an animal in bed. I sleep better when they are there," she says.
Even with Murdock, the Great Dane? Yep.
"(He) jumps up, lays down before we can even get into bed and then reluctantly moves in order to let us settle in. He likes to sleep pressed up against me with his feet in my husband's back. He doesn't mind being covered up if it's cold. Once he settles in, he sleeps like a log and snores."
Most of the pets alternate sleeping on the floor or sleeping on top of the bedcovers, but there are a few who must sleep in the bed, Krkljus says.
"Magoo (a Chihuahua) lives to sleep in bed. He burrows under the covers, will stay in bed for 12 hours and only moves if you move," she says. "The only problem we've run into is that Magoo is now deaf and it can be very difficult to distinguish his shape when he's rolled into a blanket, which puts him at risk for being sat on. Fortunately, that has not yet happened."
Their 95-pound Great Pyrenees, Stewie, sleeps on the floor until the bed is empty, then he climbs on and stretches out, she says. "He will on occasion get into bed with us for some snuggle time but doesn't stay very long," she says.
Krkljus says she and her husband's devotion to their pets is reciprocal; the pets enrich their lives and vice versa.
"They make me smile and giggle about something every day, they love unconditionally, are always happy to see me and were placed on this earth to make my life better," she says.
Lee Shuff, operations manager at Chattanooga Closet Co., says his 14-year-old Chihuahua, Bleu, was crate-trained when he and his wife, Kris, first brought her home, they soon moved her into their bed.
"After hearing her whine at night, we were soft and put the crate in our room," he says. "When she was old enough to get out of the crate, she basically started sleeping with us throughout the night."
Because of the Chihuahua's tiny size, the Shuffs purchased "doggy steps" that enable her to get off and on the bed with ease. Once on the bed, Bleu likes to sleep under the covers, right smack in the middle of Shuff and his wife.
"I wonder how she can breath under the covers, but she loves it. She loves to be warm and we often cut on our heating pad for her to lay on," he says.
Just having the dog helped Shuff make a major change in his life.
"After we had her a while as a puppy, I decided to become a vegetarian," he says. "I was always curious about it, but after Bleu became a part of our life, I started to think more about the big picture and wanted to become more informed and compassionate towards all animals."
William Jackson, of Cleveland, who works in the family-owned Jackson Bakery in Chattanooga, says his dog, 2-year-old Addie, a Lab/Husky mix, has been sleeping in the bed since he brought him home as a puppy. It was the first time a dog of that size slept in the bed with him and his wife, Crystal, but it's routine now.
"She is my baby," he says. "She's my security blanket since my daughters have grown up."
Former Chattanoogan Lela Moore, who now lives in New York, says she has been sleeping with her cat, 7-year-old Eloise, since adopting her in 2011. A comment moderator at The New York Times, Moore says that, despite some night-time disruptions, she enjoys sharing her bed with Eloise.
"Cats have a way of getting what they want and that includes making strategic noises to wake you up, checking to make sure you're breathing if you won't pet them, opening bedroom doors, etc. Sometimes (always) it's easier not to fight it," she says.
And Eloise, not unlike humans, has night-time rituals.
"I have a down comforter and Eloise digs herself little nests in it every night, right up against my stomach. I sleep on my right side, and this way she's facing the door and rest of the room but also touching me. So you hear her pawing the covers, then she turns around three times, then she lies down. If I roll over, she becomes very concerned that she's being ignored and meows loudly until I roll back," Moore says.
Moore says Eloise is more than a pet, she's a companion.
"I adopted Eloise right after I got divorced and was lonely at home," she says. "She's been a fantastic companion for me and recently endured an apartment move and a new addition to our household like a champ — a slightly skittish champ, but a champ nonetheless.
"She's got an independent streak but she's very loyal to me and her presence is very comforting."
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at email@example.com.