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Zoe without the zzzzzzzzzz’s: My storm-phobic dog creates sleep-deprived days—for me

Posted by on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 in Editor's Column, June 2011.

You know how advocates for pets are always citing figures showing that pet owners live longer? I am completely puzzled about how this could possibly be so.

One example: one of the keys to a long and healthy life is getting enough sleep.

I cannot recall a single occasion when a pet has helped me get more sleep.

I can, however, recall many times when I’ve lost sleep to dogs.

I remember driving to a convenience store in the middle of the night to buy Pepto-Bismol for my dog Natchez, who had a bit of a nervous stomach. The vet had said that Pepto could help calm things down, and, truth be told, nothing was quite as arresting visually as Natchez’s gray muzzle coated with the unworldly pink of that stuff after she did her best to reject the dosing.

Overnight convenience store clerks have seen it all, but I’m sure I was the height of suaveness (or is it suavehood?), blearily stumbling in from the parking lot at 2:30 in the morning, hair askew and clothes throw on, asking which aisle the Pepto was in. No telling what he thought, but what he thought was wrong.

Natchez was a good dog.

When, years ago, we got our beagle puppy Tyler, house training was an adventure. It took little Ty a while to catch on to this whole “Don’t pee in the house” thing, but when he did, he took in seriously.

His bladder didn’t grow as fast as his ability to stay hydrated, and so for the better part of a year, almost every morning at about 3 a.m., I would be awakened by Tyler whining beside the bed. Sometimes you could practically hear him forming the words: “You SAID you want me to let you know when it’s time—so let’s GO.”

And go we would, out into the back yard in the ambience of the East Nashville night. Night after night after night.

Tyler was a good dog.

My current source of canine-caused sleep deprivation is our greyhound-beagle mix Zoe, who seems to have a pretty good digestive system and a bladder of sufficient capacity to last through the night, but who makes up for it with a severe storm phobia.

We’ve had dogs before who didn’t like storms. They would hide under the bed or become overly clingy, but that was about it.

Zoe is in another league.

At the first flash of lightning or rumble of thunder, her big brown eyes get even bigger, and she —let’s see, what is the technical term?—freaks out. She runs around, she whines, she tries to find somewhere, anywhere, that feels good to her. But nowhere does, so she goes somewhere else: under small tables, rattling around in the hall closet with the vacuum cleaner, into her kennel, back out of her kennel.

One time when Sharon and I had been away from home during a storm, Zoe was so discombobulated that she had taken an oven mitt from the counter by the stove and eaten the thumb. Predictably, this do-it-yourself dog roughage didn’t stay down.

This kind of behavior is bad enough during the day, but at night it becomes a different adventure completely. I can completely sleep through thunder and lightning, but I cannot sleep through having a terrified 50-pound dog attempting to sit on my head.

And even when she wants to be right beside us, she finds no comfort. She is inconsolable, until the storm moves on.

We’ve tried dosing her with some medicine we got from her vet which is supposed to help her relax, but in Zoe’s case makes her just as terrified, just drunk and uncoordinated—which is even worse. We tried an herbal supplement which somebody recommended, which might help a little, but not enough to allow Sharon and me to sleep.

Zoe is a good dog. She has a great heart and a great zest for life. She also has a great capacity to interfere with my sleep.

I’ll bet I’ve collectively lost hundreds of hours of sleep to tending with sick dogs, needy dogs, scared dogs—even sometimes dogs who decide to bark in the middle of the night apparently because of special communications from the Galaxy of the Dogs.

You might ask me if it’s worth it.

I would answer you, if only I hadn’t dozed off in the middle of your question.


  • Bryce

    July 31st, 2011

    Nice! We can relate to this one, just had a big storm here in Sydney and our Beagle went nuts! Did not get a wink of sleep! He only young so hopefully we can train it into him, looking forward to see how he copes with GuyFawks! Check out this article: we have been following this for a bit an has been working well… until last night!

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