The Rockwood Files: Do dogs have snooze buttons?

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I got a late start today. I’d blame the alarm app on my phone, but that one went off on time. It’s the hairy alarm clock who slept through his job.

When Mac the Goldendoodle moved into our house, he decided to sleep in my bed. Maybe he did it because Cooper the Corgi also sleeps in my room, although he has always preferred the solitude of his own crate in the corner, where no one will roll over and disturb him.

But Mac is a people dog. He wants to be right next to or draped across people and may, in fact, believe he’s a person. He starts the night on the bed and then moves to the floor. Then he shuffles over to his dog bed for a while, but he always ends up back on my turf by morning. His 60-pound furry body curves into the shape of a comma, except for the moments when he rolls to his back to stretch into an exclamation mark, extending all four legs for added emphasis.

When the alarm app on my phone starts to play its wake-up melody each day, Mac dutifully obeys and crawls up to the head of the bed to stare at me and breathe uncomfortably close to my face. He has associated the alarm sound with an impending trip outside followed by breakfast. Sometimes he leans down to plant a sloppy kiss on my cheek, encouraging me to rise and shine attention on him.

Over time I’ve learned that if I keep my eyes shut, pet his head, and then scratch behind his floppy ears, Mac will sometimes settle down next to me and wait while I silence the alarm. And if I rub a certain spot on the side of his belly, one of his back legs will scratch at mid-air as he closes his eyes and drifts back to doggie dreams. It’s not as easy as cancelling an alarm app, but sometimes I manage to press snooze on the dog, too. He dozes off with his head against my shoulder, and we both get another few minutes of precious sleep.

It’s silly, I know. Most sleep experts say an extra 10 minutes doesn’t make a big difference. It’s best to get up when the alarm goes off the first time, they say. But there’s no denying how decadent those snooze minutes feel when faced with the thought of leaving a warm cocoon of covers. It’s like the last few bites of dessert. Just a few more minutes, I thought. Then I’ll get up because Mac will make me. His bladder is boss, and invariably he’ll insist on a trip outside to water a tree.

But this morning, I opened my eyes and realized another half-hour had passed with no canine alarm clock coaxing me awake. When I scrambled out of bed, the dog opened his eyes and yawned, letting his long, pink tongue stretch out like a runway.

“What happened, Mac? I thought you’d wake me up!”

Not the least bit disturbed by my frantic rush, he lumbered off the bed, tail already wagging. He walked over to the crate in the corner, insisting I release his buddy. Cooper the Corgi waddled out of his crate with sleep in his eyes and stretched his too-short legs in a yoga move that looks like he’s trying to grow.

After a quick trip to the yard, both dogs helped me wake up Kate for school and then stood by my ankles in the kitchen when I slapped together a peanut butter jelly sandwich for her lunch bag. They looked longingly at the jar of peanut butter, hoping I might smear some on an extra slice of bread, tear it in half, and give each of them a piece.

I did it, of course, because I’m a pathetic pushover. But first I gave them a piece of my mind: “You guys didn’t earn this peanut butter treat, you know. You’re both terrible alarm clocks.”

They looked at me with fake innocence as if to say, “Sure, sure. Let’s pretend this is all our fault.” Then they shuffled to the living room to assume their morning nap positions, and Kate and I raced off to the school drop-off lane.

Just another furry day in the neighborhood.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. Her book is available on Amazon. 

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