Now I lay them down to sleep

Well, it's happened. Jim and I have become those people. You know, the ones whose animals take the place of their children once the children are grown and gone.

Sure, I have plenty of friends whose animals have always been their kids. Which has worked well for them. It's what they do. It's what they've done. It's their normal.

But it's not been our normal, my normal. Until recently. So it's a bit disconcerting.

We've always had animals, if not a dog or two, at least a cat or two. And in the last few months, I've come to realize that I now pay just as much attention to their eating, sleeping, pooping and entertainment schedules and options as I once did with my kids. Oh yeah, and bathing options, too.

This past weekend, Jim and I converted the shower in our downstairs bathroom to a DOG shower, with a fancy little hand-held shower head with an on/off button that makes it easy to wet down the kids dogs, pause the water, lather 'em up, then unpause and rinse. It was quite simple showering up the little ones on Saturday. So much easier -- on us and them -- than taking them to self-wash at Petco or Petsmart or to a groomer. Going forward, our spoiled little Mickey and Lyla will bathe in the comfort of their own home, the comfort of their own cussing bathroom.

Come to think of it, that's more than our daughters ever had. The girls shared a bathroom -- all three of them plus me -- until one by one they moved out. Yeah, our dogs are spoiled.

In return, they do for us something the girls never did: They go to bed each night without complaint. At their scheduled bedtime. Without a single delay tactic.

Each night at 10 p.m., Mickey and Lyla, who have been hanging out with us in the family room -- on their beds pulled from their bedroom (yes, the dogs have their own bedroom ... well, they share it) -- get up, stretch and head to the back door for a final drink of water and potty before bedtime. I open the door, they trot out to the back yard -- in the dark, mind you, with no begging, "Can you please turn on the light, Mom?" Then they do their business, head back to the patio for a final slurp of H20, then stand at the door, waiting for me to let them in.

Once I let them in is when the real fun begins. At least they think so. For some reason, Mickey and Lyla -- especially Lyla -- believe that bedtime is the most wondrous time of day, the reason for getting through the day, the reason for living. The second I slide open the glass door, they scurry through the family room, tails wagging like mad, past Jim and his "goodnight, guys" brush along their sides, and into their bedroom. They climb aboard their newly fluffed beds -- pulled from the family room and returned to the correct positions while they were out pottying. Then they circle a time or two and plop down in their little nests. I rub their heads, their necks; they nuzzle my hand. "Goodnight, kids. See ya in the morning," I tell them as I back out of their room.

Just like tucking in the kids. Only these kids don't request another sip of water or remind me that the tooth fairy is scheduled to visit in the night or remember at the very last second that they are going on a field trip the next day and need an extra-special packed lunch with a drink for the trip. Yep, the dogs are so much easier to put to bed than the girls were.

There is one part of the bedtime ritual that the girls did so much better, though, so much sweeter. That was the bedtime prayer. Brianna would come from her room to join me and the other two in Megan and Andie's room. We'd sit on the edge of their beds, fold our hands, bow our heads, ask for guidance through the night, then request "God bless Brianna and Megan and Andrea and Mommy and Daddy and everyone we love and care about. Amen." I miss that. The dogs don't do that.

I'm wondering how much work it might take to get Mickey and Lyla to fold their little paws in prayer each night.

I'll get back to you on that.

Today's question:

What time do you typically go to bed?