Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Vampire dog diaries: 'Click! Clack! Click!'

Driven to drugs by Cooper's nocturnal habits

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You should take a good look at my face.

I don't mean the face attached to this column; that's a perfectly acceptable newspaper person's face.

I mean the face I'm wearing right now as I sit here at my computer struggling to formulate a coherent thought.

This is not a good face. It is a pasty face. My eyeballs are red and my eyelids are drooping so much I need to prop them open with toothpicks. My cheeks are puffed out like a mutant squirrel on steroids and the bags under my eyes are big enough to hold all your belongings on a European vacation.

You'd think I'm suffering from the Killer Cold from Hell, but I'm not. The problem is I haven't slept in weeks because I am the owner of a 13-year-old basset hound named Cooper who believes that, like a (bad word) vampire, he needs to spend the entire night wandering around in search of his next meal.

It wasn't always this way. What with being a hound with a brain the size of a Cracker Jack prize and a stunning physical resemblance to a sandbag, Cooper was always an outstanding sleeper. When it came to lying on the couch, snoring and emitting potentially toxic aromas, he was best in show.

But that was back in the good old days. Now that he's a senior citizen -- approximately 6,000 in human years -- he doesn't sleep at all. Hold on, I take that back. What I mean is he doesn't sleep at night. During the day, when my wife and I are trying to stay alert and interact with other humans, Cooper is happily sacked out, a biscuit-eating, drooling vampire in his comfy coffin, storing up energy for a busy night to come.

Once my wife and I call it a night, Cooper rises from his tomb and, like a four-legged Flying Dutchman, his nails click-clacking on the hardwood floors, sails around the house, a floppy-eared ghost ship doomed to never make port.

First, he click-clacks into our bedroom, butting the door open with his head, then circles our bed relentlessly while my wife and I pretend to be asleep, praying the other person will drag themselves from under the covers and let him outside to pee, give him the first of countless "breakfasts" throughout the night, then try to herd him back to one of his cosy dog beds.

Then, maybe 30 minutes later, just as we are poised to nod off again, it starts all over. "Click! Clack! Click! Clack!" is the sound we hear over and over as our restless hound resumes his noisy nocturnal ramblings, in and out of the bedroom, weighing anchor just long enough to send me the following telepathic message: "Hey, you hungry? Because I could really go for some pancakes right about now!"

It's a vicious circle. And I do mean vicious, in the sense that when my wife has been deprived of sleep long enough, there is an excellent chance that, after hurling profanity, she will attempt to bean you on the head with a paperback novel flung in the dark with a velocity and accuracy that would turn any major league pitcher green with envy.

If you are considering offering some helpful tips in dog sleep management, don't bother. We have tried almost everything, including late-night walks, hypnotism, bedtime stories and warm milk, to get Cooper to (bad word) sleep.

On the night Barack Obama was re-elected president, armed with frayed nerves and a prescription from our family veterinarian, we began giving this 48-pound, red-eyed, wrinkled insomniac a nightly dose of a famous tranquilizer (for the record, it rhymes with "balium") normally ingested by anxiety-ridden Hollywood starlets.

We had high hopes. During Obama's deeply moving victory speech, Cooper snored happily on the couch at the decibel level of a nuclear blast. It was with a feeling of contentment that I slipped into bed that night, eager to sleep the sleep of the dead.

As you have already deduced, moments later, our eyes popped open as we heard the sound we have come to dread. Only this time it was slightly different. It sounded like this: "Click! Clack! THUMP! Click! Clack! THUMP!"

Groggy from his prescription medication but still refusing to snooze, the Dog That Wouldn't Sleep was on the prowl again, the only difference being that now, as he navigated the hardwood floors en route to our bedroom, he bumped into walls and doors and random pieces of furniture.

It's like this every night at our place. Cooper doesn't mind and I'm putting on a brave, if exhausted, face, but my wife is reaching the breaking point.

She's talking about turning to tranquillizers. My best friend can probably help her out with that but personally, I think she should sleep on it.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 9, 2012 A2

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