Let sleeping dogs lie, they say. It isn’t as easy as you’d think.
I recently found myself kneeling on the floor of our basement, the exploded innards of our dog’s latest bed — the fifth in a year — splayed around me: three separate long, narrow rolls of stuffing that are meant to be zippered inside the dog bed but that resisted my every effort, like those coiled fabric snakes that pop from joke cans of “peanuts.”
Meanwhile, our black Lab, Charlie, stood at the door upstairs, wondering where he’d sleep that night.
I am of the tough-love school when it comes to where dogs sleep. Aren’t they just fine on the floor? But My Lovely Wife believes that Charlie deserves better and — concerned for his creaky, 13-year-old bones — takes great interest in providing him with just the right sleeping technology.
Really, I should be glad of this, since it suggests that when I am old and infirm, Ruth will care for me, lovingly turning me to prevent bedsores, suctioning my mouth when I aspirate my pudding, keeping me alive when it would be easier to “accidentally” trip over the ventilator cord.
But we were talking about Charlie. When he was young, he would occasionally sleep in our daughters’ beds, but mainly he slept on a big rectangular dog bed that we got someplace like Lands’ End or L.L. Bean. It was just a dark green zippered shell with a padded insert. Ruth added some old blankets and pillows to make it even more padded.
For years, this served Charlie well. And it served us well. When it started to smell too doggy it was easy to disassemble the bed and stuff its various components into the washing machine .
But then Charlie’s nighttime routine of pawing it at — pretending to tamp down the savanna grass that still grows in his DNA — ended up ripping the bed in a few places. I would have been happy for Ruth to patch it continually, but she thought a new bed was in order.
Bed No. 2 was like Bed No. 1 but in a lighter color and of cheaper material. We stuck with it for a while, but it got really grimy, quickly showing the natural oils that seep out of Labrador retrievers. It’s bad enough that we keep Charlie’s dog bed in our dining room. We didn’t want a dog bed that looked like a hobo had been murdered in it.
So Ruth ordered Bed No. 3. It was dark and of a new design, new for Charlie at least. Because it had a large padded rim around the circumference, it was called a “bagel.” Charlie is a big dog — 73 pounds — and Ruth felt he needed a big bed. But this thing was huge. It reminded me of one of those Zodiac boats that commandos use to storm beaches. We had to scootch the table over a bit so it would fit in the room. And even unzipped and disassembled, there was no way we could stuff the dog bed into the washing machine.
So we replaced it with a smaller bagel bed. But Bed No. 4 turned out to be a sealed unit, not unzippable at all. It wouldn’t fit in the washing machine either.
Charlie is nothing if not accommodating. He withstood all these experiments with canine equanimity. I think we could put anything in that corner of the dining room and he’d sleep on it: a broken treadmill, a 54-quart Coleman cooler, a baby pool filled with corn husks and marbles . . .
And so to Bed No. 5. I call this a modified bagel: It has a padded rim but also an additional bolster at the back and a flat pillow for the floor of the bed. It’s black — elegant, timeless — and it’s easy to take the stuffing out.
What isn’t easy is putting the stuffing back in.
When Ruth went away recently on a two-week business trip, I decided to wash this bed. I am not exaggerating when I say that the three padded rolls in this dog bed, when put end to end, measure close to 30 feet. I tried for 15 minutes to stuff even one of them back in the bed. I was like a man trying to cram a moray eel into a shot glass.
Finally I gave up. I left the rolls in the basement, where they resembled those booms used to corral oil spills.
“Sorry, Charlie,” I said to the dog. “Ruth will be home soon. She’ll fix things.”
And she did.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.