Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

By Dennis Hinkamp

They know what they're doing.
-by Dennis Hinkamp
hinkamp_soc.jpgThere are many reasons you should let a sleeping dog lie, but foremost amongst them is that watching said dog is more instructive than a bushel of self-help books. The wakened dog my bite you but only as a toothy reminder to show more reverence toward sleep.

Riches, sex and chemical mind alterations are fleeting, but sleep is always there waiting to comfort us. Yet, we fight it so. We fleshy bipeds have ruined all the other pleasures with diseases and moral ambiguity. We fight wars and scurry about in clouds of religious yada yada looking for something that dogs do daily.

You can speculate on the joy of winning the lottery or pitching a no-hitter. You can savor a perfectly cooked bratwurst and linger on a luminescent Pacific sunset, but you may never experience the contentment of a sleeping dog. The reason dogs eat so fast is not because they are ravenous brutes, but rather that they are in a hurry to sleep the sleep of warmth and safety.

We have to drink in this behavior and learn to appreciate it lest we go mad with jealousy knowing that our walnut-brained canine charges have already found the bliss we so futilely strive for. Dogs are devoid of that nagging work ethic and need for accomplishment. They know that contentment is an accomplishment in itself. Dogs don't need drugs or Jay Leno to sleep because they know that sleep is itself a drug and that dreams are better than anything you can watch on TV. Dogs don't have to prepare for sleep; they are always dressed and ready for it. You can't whisper to dogs. Dogs are whispering to us, and they are saying "sleep."

We fight sleep. You have to be a morning person or a night person. If you sleep too late, you are lazy. If you go to bed too early, you are boring. Dogs are always ready to sleep because they are not at war with sleep.

Look at all the worthless products we have devoted to sleep that dogs come by naturally. We manufacture voluminous assortments of beds and bedclothes. We need night lights and pajamas and sometimes slinky stuff to differentiate our waking appearance from the sleeping one. We also need little squawking machines to remind us that sleep time is over. It's true that sleep is one-third of our lives, but it is a really simple one-third compared to all that complex waking life stuff. We need cars and clothes and endless streets lined with buildings full of stuff to amuse us until we can sleep again.

I do love my coffee, and my mind has been altered more times than a fat man's suit, but it is a poor substitute for curling up on any available soft surface when you are really tired. Don't wait until it is "time" for bed; just do it, preferably in a spot where the sun comes in and warms the worn cushions on a soft couch.

Dennis Hinkamp would rather be sleeping right now, but his dog reminded him to finish this column first.

This article was originally published on June 28, 2007.