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Published February 06 2011

Swift: Our ‘mattress menagerie’ isn’t going anywhere

Thanks a lot, germ police.

Now I have another thing to worry about.

I've trained myself to use hand sanitizer, but now I have to worry that its pump harbors E. coli. I’ve learned that my computer keyboard contains more pathogens than a kindergarten restroom. And I've grown so terrified of salmonella in chicken that I won't handle it without donning a haz-mat suit first.

Now I also have to be paranoid about the creatures who bring me so much unconditional love and joy.

My pets.

A University of California-Davis veterinary professor has written a scientific article that says people who allow their pets to lick them or sleep with them are at risk for a variety of diseases that bear the name “zoonoses.”

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a Dr. Seuss name to me. “And all the Zoons with their funny Zoonoses built their Zoonhuts where they planted Zoonroses.”

OK, so I kid. Zoonoses is a very real thing, which can include parasites like roundworms.

Ick.

Even so, I do feel American society, as a whole, is way too germophobic. We are so busy sterilizing the kids’ hands and boiling the door knobs that we don’t allow ourselves to develop resistance to the inevitable bacteria around us.

The researcher himself said the chance of contracting a form of zoonoses isn’t huge.

I also know this. If Irwin and I haven’t perished from zoonoses yet, we never will.

It’s not like we sit around and kiss our dogs. But Irwin has invented a little routine in which he holds Kita, our Pomapoo, and asks: “Who’s the boss?”

Grudgingly and delicately, she will dart out her tiny pink tongue and lick him once on the end of his nose.

I don’t know how this started, and I don’t know why a 6-foot-2-inch man needs to know he reigns supreme over an 8-pound dog. It’s just how they roll.

Kita, in fact, has a licking problem. She is forever grooming us, as if we’re her very large, very bald, very clumsy offspring. Maybe she’s just showing affection. More likely, she thinks we need grooming.

And I’m not ashamed to admit it: More than once, she has hopped aboard me while I’m sleeping and licked my face.

The dogs and the cat also sleep with us. They have become so accustomed to the family bed that, if Irwin gets up to go to the bathroom, he will return to find Jake in his spot.

It is probably just a matter of time before they get all “Animal Farm” on us and we wind up living in the garage.

Yes, I wash the sheets frequently and our mattress menagerie sleeps on top of the covers. But I sometimes feel like I’m sleeping in a hamster cage – and I’m the big, fat, blond guy pinned on the bottom.

You know what they say.

Let sleeping dogs lie.

But spray them with Lysol first.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525