Would You Sleep With a Dog?

No, like, a literal dog. A labrador retreiver, say. Should pets be allowed in the bedroom?

dog in bed with couple
(Image credit: CW Hanley/ImageBank)

My boyfriend, Sweet Pants, has a lovely dog — an old Black Labrador. She's a rescue who was given the name of "Buena" before he adopted her, and that's what he still calls her. And she certainly deserves her Spanish name: She is a very, very good dog who almost never barks or misbehaves in any way. She's also kind of old, and not terribly affectionate ... until she gets to know you a little better. She used to ignore me completely when I showed up at his place. Now, she runs to the door when I arrive, wagging her tail so hard her whole body shakes — and I am deeply delighted by it. Despite her advanced age, I talk to her in a goobery baby voice whenever I see her. I adore her.

And yet ... I do not want her in the bed in which I sleep. It's a logistical thing, in part: I find it hard enough to sleep through the night when there is a human next to me, twitching and turning and snorting now and then. It's doubly hard when there's a large animal doing the same. But it's also partly a hygiene thing. It seems a little gross to me. I don't even like getting her hair all over my pants when I sit on the couch. I put a clean sheet down on it before we watch a movie.

The New York Times did a story over the weekend about sleeping with your pets. They noted that a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control found that somewhere from 14 to 62 percent of household pets in America sleep in bed with their owners. "The reasons are well documented," the writer noted. "First, touching, human or otherwise, raises levels of oxytocin in the body, creating feelings of contentment. And, of course, the comfort that an unconditionally loving animal provides in bed is an emotional balm, especially for the depressed, lonely or anxious."

All the same, there are some health risks. In the same C.D.C. study, "two California doctors warn that allowing pets to sleep in the bed can be dangerous and can spread ... pathogens that go from animals to people," as the Times writer continues. "According to Bruno B. Chomel, a professor at the University of California at Davis, and Ben Sun of the California Department of Public Health, the risks are rare, but real. They cite instances of fleas from cats transmitting bubonic plague. Cat scratch fever is a danger, too, they say, as are various forms of meningitis, Pasturella pneumonia and other infections."

So where do you guys come down on all this? Like me, do you kick Fido out of the bed — or insist that sleepovers must take place at your place, under your hair-free duvet? Do you think I'm being impossible, and that if I relaxed, I'd realize how lovely it could be to have Garfield wrapped around my head on a chilly morning?