I didn’t get much sleep last night. Later today Dr. Stone comes over to put Rio to sleep. I spent the night as many mothers do, listening. My ears reached out into the darkness for every slight sound from Rio, and fully scanned the topography of each breath. For about the past six months I’ve noticed an irregularity with his breathing when he’s at rest. It sounds kind of like the stutter a crying person makes when they try to take a breath of air. Sometimes, when he’s really tired, he snores – a sound that used to evoke a smile from me when I heard it. There was something very satisfying to me in hearing this, perhaps because it meant that he was tired (a tired dog is a good thing), and fully relaxed. I recall a number of trips in the car after camping or hiking where he would do this, and it would make me and my husband laugh. The sounds he makes in the night are not reassuring to me any more, and I feel like a watchful, worried mother with a sick infant. I can hear the effort in his breath as he tries to change position while favoring his lame leg. He is no longer able to quietly move around, and makes a heavy “thud” after turning over.
It has been only recently that Rio would sleep in a dog bed. When he was younger I think he must have eaten 3 of them – I would foolishly put them in his kennel with him when we were gone at work for the day, and I would come home to find nothing but shredded fabric and chunks of foam rubber. When in the house he was always content to just lie on the floor, and would sleep next to our bed at night. I guess it was his blindness that made me think that he might appreciate a “home base”, a bed in a place that he could rely on, that was somehow a comforting to him in his darkness. I got him his last bed late last fall, after his blindness was diagnosed, along with some noisy toys I thought that he might be interested in. I took him with me to the PetSmart, and had him try out each bed that I pulled from the shelves. I liked the oval shaped, soft sided ones made of foam rubber, with a washable sheepskin liner. It warmed my heart that he took a liking to the bed, and I swear that a few sounds of contentment punctuated the night after that. I heard sighs, and lip smacks, and dreamy stretching sounds. In the morning I would look over the edge of the bed and smile to see him curled up in a ball, in the bed I had gotten him, and my heart was glad.