In the Middle of the Night – A Post by Carol (Ray’s “Mom”).
A lot can go on in the middle of the night that Colin is blissfully unaware of until I groggily greet him in the morning and give him a summary of my night of interrupted sleep!
Ray’s usual bedtime routine was that I would take him outside in the backyard for one last pee before bed. I always put the leash on him just in case there are any raccoons or skunks waiting to surprise us. He happily complies and then purposefully trots back into the house and patiently waits while I unclip his leash and remove his collar. The second his collar is removed, he heads straight into his crate and lies down. I’ll then give him a biscuit for his bedtime snack, leaving the crate door open. While he is happily munching away, I will close the baby gate behind me* and get ready for bed.
All went well with our established routine. Ray was trained early on that if he needed to go outside, he could simply nudge with his nose a small cowbell that we had hung on the doorknob of the back door. Usually someone would hear it softly clang and let him out. If no one responded within a few minutes, he would nudge it a bit harder to make it clang a bit louder. If that didn’t work, he’d eventually give it a really good bash or two, resulting in a loud “clang, ka-clang, ka-clang!!!”, bound to make anyone come dashing in to let him out.
One night, Ray decided it would be a really good idea to ring the bell at 2:00 in the morning. The increasingly louder clanging eventually woke me up and I got dressed, put on my shoes, put Ray’s leash on him and sleepily took him out into the garden, where he promptly lay down in the middle of the yard, facing the house. He then crossed one front paw over the other and lay there, quite relaxed, as if it was the most natural thing to be doing at 2:00 am.
I stood there for about a minute and as the mosquitoes started to zone in on me, I coaxed Ray up and back into the house. He didn’t get a biscuit, as I didn’t want him to associate going out in the middle of the night with getting another bedtime snack (we know from experience that he can easily make those types of associations!). I shut the baby gate and went back to bed.
About an hour later, just as I was drifting off to sleep, he rang the bell again. I took him outside, and we walked once around the yard. He showed no signs of needing to relieve himself and I brought him right back inside, before he had a chance to try to lay down in the grass. Again, no biscuit and I shut the baby gate and went back to bed.
Over the next week, he woke me up in the wee hours of the morning a few more times. However, each time when I was about to put the leash on him, he walked away from me and headed right for the closed baby gate and stood there in front of it, expecting to be let out of the kitchen. He obviously wasn’t interested at all in going outside and I wondered if perhaps something in the kitchen was bothering him. Perhaps the weird noises the fridge made during the defrost cycle? Or, perhaps the fridge was making a noise we couldn’t hear, but he could? Trying to figure it out, I stayed awhile in the kitchen with him and although he clearly wasn’t happy being there, he eventually settled down and went back to sleep.
I started thinking maybe he was just lonely and he had figured out that if he rang the bell, I would magically appear and entertain him for a bit (even though I ignored him and just quietly sat there half asleep, waiting for him to go back to sleep). I thought maybe if I removed the bell at night, he would realize there was no way to summon me and would hopefully go back to bed .
What a brilliant idea that was! It worked perfectly the first night. The next night however, Ray decided to try another way to get my attention. I was awakened by a series of very pitiful whimpers and cries. Of course that worked and when I got up to see what he wanted, he again stood at the gate, expecting to be let out of the kitchen.
After a couple more nights of the same routine of being woken up by Ray’s crying, Colin and I decided I would leave the gate open at bedtime to see what he would do. Ray and I did our usual bedtime routine of one last outing in the yard, followed by his bedtime snack in his den. I then turned off the light, left the gate open and went to brush my teeth. I soon saw Ray very quietly and practically on tiptoe, surreptitiously and ever so slowly, slink past the bathroom door, on his way out into the living room. It sure looked like he was thinking he was going to be in big trouble for leaving the kitchen, and was maybe hoping perhaps if he did it quietly enough, I wouldn’t see him and he would get away with it. I smiled and completely ignored him as he passed by. I went to bed and thoroughly enjoyed a full night of blissful, uninterrupted sleep!
The next morning, Colin said when he got up in the middle of the night he noticed Ray was contentedly sleeping, all curled up in the chair in the living room. And a few hours later when he got up for breakfast, he said Ray was stretched out on the floor beside the chair. The really good news is that it appears that Colin is now able to walk past a dozing Ray without invoking a startle response**!
Last night was the third night of our new bedtime routine of leaving the gate open. This time I had the camera ready and tried to catch Ray as he slunk his way out to the living room.
It’s not the best pic, and even though he wasn’t slinking as much last night as he was the first night, you might be able to tell that he isn’t quite comfortable yet with realizing he actually has the freedom to choose to sleep in the living room instead of the kitchen. 🙂
*See “Ray – Escape Artiste” – May 13, 2015
**See “Excuse me please” – Nov 12, 2014