Skip to content

Chicken Soup for the Soul

I’ve had pets my whole life. I just love having a dog at my feet or a cat
nearby. So I turned to pets when I was going through one of the most difficult
times in my life. In 2019, I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain
syndrome in my left foot. This chronic condition makes the affected limb
extremely sensitive to touch. Every contact with my foot felt like extreme
pain, which made sleeping difficult if not impossible. Even the feel of the
sheet on my toes was excruciating. As I struggled with the condition, I
wondered if a dog would help. I knew I felt better when I had a pet near
me, so maybe a dog sleeping by my side would distract me from the pain.
At the time, I had a 100-pound Golden Retriever named Candie. Like
all Goldens, Candie is a gentle giant. She is a good dog, but she was too
big for my bed. She would take up too much space and probably bump
into my bad foot. I thought that a smaller, lap-size dog might provide
comfort while I slept, so I started to look around for the perfect dog.
I started at the local animal shelter, monitoring their website and Facebook
posts for available dogs. It took a few months, but then there he was.
They had a Jack Russell Terrier named Buster, and I just knew he was the
dog for me. I went to the shelter as soon as I could to check out Buster.
The kind folks there told me that they were eager to get Buster out of the
place. He was an old dog (at least 8) and had been in and out of many
homes. No bad behavior, just a string of bad luck, and living at the shelter
was really stressing him out. They wanted to be sure he got along with my
Golden, which was the only requirement for adoption.
So, later that afternoon, I asked my kids if they would like to meet a
new dog I was thinking of bringing home. They were skeptical at first (I
do have a lot of pets), but they agreed to check him out. Off we went with
Candie to meet Buster. It was love at first sight. My kids thought Buster
was the cutest dog they had ever seen. He was a happy chap, all wagging
tail and hellos. And Candie was more than interested in a new friend. We
filled out the paperwork and brought Buster home.
Buster adjusted quickly and seemed happy at our house. My husband
would often joke that I got a “used” dog, but it worked out well for everyone
since Buster had a lot of previous experience as a family pet. Buster
and Candie got along easily, and Buster was very entertained by our four
At first, Buster slept in bed with me, and everything worked out like I
imagined it would. If I focused my attention on the warm dog at my side,
I could draw some attention away from the pain in my foot and relax. In
fact, Buster was a super sleeper. My husband was working nights at the
time, so Buster spent the night in bed with me and then slept most of the
day in bed with my husband. My husband even came up with a nickname
for Buster: The Sleep Ninja.
As time went on, I began noticing that my son Henry was really
interested in Buster. The two of them were often sitting together on the
couch, or I would find Buster lying in a sunbeam in Henry’s room. Henry
even began throwing the ball for Buster to chase outside. Henry suffers
from some serious anxiety, so it seemed good to me that he was making
a friend. And Buster sure seemed to be enjoying all the attention. He was
the star of the house, earning lots of pets and treats. He was living his best
It didn’t take long before Henry asked if Buster could sleep in his
bed instead of mine. He had a point. How come I always got the dog,
and he never did? I could hardly say no, but I was disappointed. Buster
had helped my sleep so much, and I worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep
without him. But I knew that Henry also had trouble falling asleep. Many
nights, his anxiety kept him awake until one or two in the morning. So
Henry and I worked out a schedule. He would take Buster three nights a
week, and I would take him for four.
It became clear right away that The Sleep Ninja was the perfect name
for Buster. On the nights he had Buster by his side, Henry would fall
asleep right away. There was just something about the warmth of Buster’s
comforting presence that helped Henry feel safe and secure. We went
from Henry not being able to fall asleep for hours to him drifting off within
a matter of minutes. Sleeping with Buster was a success. It was a Sleep
Ninja miracle.
But, on nights when Buster wasn’t with Henry, Henry couldn’t sleep at
all. He asked for more and more nights with Buster. As a mother, I could
see where this was going. Henry needed to sleep, and it looked like The
Sleep Ninja was the solution we had been looking for. So, Buster switched
to Henry’s bed every night.
I’ll be honest: I missed Buster, Over the months he had slept with me,
my foot pain had become so much more tolerable. But, as a mother, I
could hardly let this perfect opportunity pass. If The Sleep Ninja was the
right fix for my son, then I had to let him go. Buster transitioned to every
night in Henry’s bed, and Henry hasn’t had trouble sleeping since.
As Henry has grown older, Buster remains his best friend. The Sleep
Ninja isn’t just a bedtime companion. Now, he is a shoulder to cry on and
a place to share secrets. As my son prepares to enter middle school, I can’t
imagine it any other way. Just like I did growing up, my son is learning
to love and appreciate animals. Buster, The Sleep Ninja, was just what he
As for me and my foot, well, now I have a reason to get another dog!
– Heather Jepsen

Leave a Comment