Three dog nights over: Joy returns to Doug’s world


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Our three dog nights are about to end — and I could not be more relieved.

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Our three dog nights are about to end — and I could not be more relieved.

It’s not that I don’t like having three dogs living under the same roof; it’s just that I miss engaging in some of my favourite activities, such as sleeping.

For the record, my wife and I typically have two dogs in our home — a mildly cranky Maltese/Bichon cross named Bogey and an unhinged, toothless schnauzer/poodle cross named Juno.

For the past two weeks, however, we have been looking after a third canine in the form of Mark-Cuss, a seven-year-old poodle/Shar-Pei/Labrador mix. Mark-Cuss belongs to my sister-in-law, who has been away visiting family on the West Coast.

I should point out here that Mark-Cuss is a certified St. John Ambulance therapy dog and since 2018 he and his human handler have been bringing comfort and joy to lonely hospital patients, stressed-out students and elderly residents in long-term care facilities. They even did virtual visits on a video-chat app at the height of the pandemic.

So you would think, what with being a trained therapy dog, that Mark-Cuss would be the perfectly behaved canine house guest. Well, if you thought that, you would be — and this comes from the bottom of my heart — a (bad word) idiot.

Before you send me angry letters on your “I (heart) therapy dogs” stationery, allow me to stress that I love Mark-Cuss, a sweetheart of a dog that resembles nothing more than a fuzzy Muppet come to life.

When he is wearing his little therapy dog vest and being a much-needed ray of sunshine for people in need, he is calm, cool and collected. During his non-working hours, however, he reverts to being a normal dog.

What that means is that when I walk in our door — even if I have only been outside for five minutes — he will react as if he has not seen me for five weeks and will repeatedly leap on me, raking his sharp little nails down my legs, because he assumes this is the best way to get dog treats.

The social dynamics of having three dogs in your house is very similar to the political dynamics in Europe before the last two World Wars in the sense it does not take much to upset the delicate balance of power.

For instance, at this exact moment, all three dogs are snoring peacefully, but if I were to get up from the computer and head to the bathroom, their defence systems would be thrown into high alert and they would instantly begin tracking me like heat-seeking missiles in case I wandered through the kitchen, which is where we keep the biscuits.

If it were just the normal daytime doggy chaos, I wouldn’t be complaining, but at nighttime, when we attempt to go to bed, international diplomacy goes out the window and tensions are ratcheted up.

When we call it a night, everyone in the house — human or otherwise — races for the main bedroom to ensure they are able to achieve tactical superiority in our king-sized bed. Sprinting for the bed is currently difficult for me because I strained a back muscle getting out of the bathtub, which means anything more strenuous than brushing my teeth causes me to shriek like a wounded woodland creature.

Before climbing in on her side, my wife will deposit Juno on the pillows between our heads and Bogey in the middle of the bed, at which point Mark-Cuss the highly trained therapy dog will bounce into the bed like a kangaroo on steroids, landing in the middle of the pile.

While the other dogs grumble and my wife attempts to slide into her spot, Mark-Cuss will then squeeze under the blankets and begin tunnelling around like a groundhog on steroids, thereby violating the border security of the other two dogs, until he finally stretches out against my legs or my wife’s and begins flipping around in an effort to achieve maximum canine comfort.

It will only be a matter of minutes before the therapy dog hidden beneath our bedcovers, and his disgruntled canine cousins, manage to bulldoze my wife and I to the point where we are perched on our sides on the edges of the bed, literally inches away from falling onto the hardwood floor.

Anyone who has ever slept with a dog in their bed knows that I am not exaggerating here for comic effect. And if you currently own a dog that does not sleep in your bed, I have one question: Can I come and sleep at your house? Please! I am very clean and I don’t snore all that much.

OK, I didn’t think so, but it never hurts to ask. What I am trying to say today is that for the past couple of weeks, my wife and I have barely slept a wink, what with three dogs rolling about above and below the covers in an effort to stake out their nighttime territory.

At some point each night, either my wife or I will raise the white flag and declare defeat, rolling off the side of the bed and marching down to our daughter’s old bedroom to flop down in a much-smaller, albeit dog-free, bed.

I was seriously thinking about checking into a hospital or a seniors’ home in hopes of getting some shuteye, but my sister-in-law comes home tomorrow and the first thing she’ll do is bring Mark-Cuss for a visit.

Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs

Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.

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