The noise has woken you. It sounds like a plane taking off, or a train coming to a halt, only muffled, as if you’re in a dream. You are in a dream, or at least you were. There it is again, more like a lawnmower now, in the not-far-enough distance. It will continue with each breath, or worse, it will stop, the seconds ticking by on the clock as you wait for the next inhalation.
Some of my friends have spoken about this in whispers, the snoring that keeps them awake through the night, the sleep apnoea that terrifies them. These are not things we like to talk about openly, the separate bedrooms, or worse, the nights lying awake listening, listening. Is he dead yet? But in this case the snorer is not my husband. And it’s not me. It’s the dog.
Spike has started to snore and unlike humans she has few options for treatment. Not for Spike a sleep clinic where they can attach hundreds of electrodes to her furry little head to monitor brain activity (God forbid). No take-home mask to push air down her windpipe all night, nor a lifesaver cap to keep her little mouth firmly shut so she nose-breathes. Not even eyeshades so she wakes “refreshed”.
Spike wakes so “unrefreshed” she has to sleep all day. “You could put her in the laundry,” one of our friends says. But they don’t know Spike. Spike panics if you leave her. She can scratch and chew doors so thoroughly they’re completely wrecked by the time you let her out. She never tries to escape the two yards she lives in – ours and the neighbour’s – but will dig frenetically under the garage door as you’re pulling out the driveway, trying to claw her way to you, screaming all the while so you won’t leave her. Spike goes i.n.s.a.n.e if on a walk one of you divides off and goes somewhere else, chokes on the lead all the way home and goes insane all over again when you’re reunited. Spike would cry all night if you put her in the laundry, riven with anxiety, only to fall into an exhausted sleep on one of the beds in the morning, a safe place she can snore all day.
When we took Spike for her annual checkup at the vet, I didn’t mention the snoring because then I’d have had to explain why a dog is in close enough proximity to the humans for the snoring to be a problem. Spike sleeps on the beds, I don’t want to say, because it’s one of those things I wouldn’t like to admit to the vet. I want the vet to think I know my dog’s a dog. She sleeps in a kennel out in the back yard, like other dogs, protecting the humans from harm. Sit! Drop! Heel!
On the internet, I learn that dogs snore for a variety of reasons. Flatnose dogs snore for perhaps an obvious reason. They have flat noses. Flat-nose-snoring has a technical name, brachycephalic airway syndrome. This is what makes pugs and pekingese snore, but not our Spike, a cavoodle and delicate of nose. One website says that the sudden onset of Spike’s snoring suggests it could be something troubling her. She might have a cold, it says, but when the snoring doesn’t go away we rule that out. An allergy is next, so we try dairy-free, gluten-free and egg-free to no avail. There’s another possibility, one we don’t mention in front of Spike for fear of making her body image issues worse (Spike has a tendency to a bingeing-purging cycle that the psychologist neighbour has suggested we watch carefully). Is Spike gaining weight? How could that be? She only eats scientifically formulated oral health kibble for small dogs, toasted sandwiches, bolognese, cheese (not during the dairy-free challenge), eggs (not when egg-free) and treats. She’s on a very strict diet. It can’t be weight.
Finally, I do call the vet practice. I say I’ve noticed – when Spike’s asleep in her dog bed – that she snores. Don’t worry, the nurse says. She’ll stop of her own accord, or not. And it won’t do any long term damage. Dogs don’t need a good night’s sleep. But humans do, I don’t say.
Based on the column published in The Courier-Mail Qweekend on 20 July 2013. I write mainly about writing, education, birth, health and the thrill of parenting. You can Get in touch, tick the box to receive emails, Like Writer Mary-Rose MacColl on Facebook or follow MaryRoseMacColl on Twitter. Have a great day!