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It first happened about 10 days ago that my lovely white English bull terrier did not appear to want to stay on the bed with me.

As Strach, the irascible sportswriter friend who is crashing at my house for a time, muttered with a rude grin that clearly referenced what used to be my love life, "Not the first time that's happened, Blatch."

"Actually Strach," I snarled furiously, "it is." But I was lying of course and we both knew it.

Anyway, I've had him - Obie the dog, not Strach - since he was a pup, and always he has been an oven-like presence in the sack, pressed up tight against me, preferably so that I am teetering on the edge of the bed. And then his practice, as the lawyers like to say, was to bury his enormous head in my neck, settling down with a series of sweet groans of contentment and the occasional pffffft as he curled into position.

Although it was a dangerous way to sleep, close to the precipice and all, it was still delightful, and if I complained about it, it was insincerely.

But this night, the dog stayed at the end of the bed, coiled like a spring as if to jump off, and would not relax. I figured it was just a weird, one-night dog thing and fairly cheerfully moved downstairs, where Obie promptly dug himself into his favourite chair and I folded myself onto the small couch.

It happened again the next night, but this time, when I attempted to lure him back onto the bed, he began to shake, and did an altogether marvellous imitation of a beaten dog, especially marvellous given that in his 20-odd months on the planet, no one has even spoken to him harshly. The shaking did me in completely, and downstairs we went again. I did notice that by the time he was at the bottom stair, his tail was up and he seemed perfectly fine, but I was too beat to try to make sense of it.

The third night, I decided to comfort him, and when he jumped off the bed, this time about 3 in the morning, I marched him back over to it and then wrapped my arms around him, whispering sweet nothings in his ear and rubbing the bald spot on the top of his head.

He lay awake, coiled but not jumping, and I lay awake, equally coiled and waiting for him to jump. When he finally did, about an hour later, we were both exhausted and went downstairs to chair and couch, respectively.

That day, I sought advice - from Jenny the niece, from Astrid, the younger of the dog nannies who look after him when I'm away, and, pretty much, from passing strangers on the street.

It was bewildering, because other than the nightly shtick, Obie was eating well and otherwise normal and the happy, barking, ball-obsessed dog he is. By light of day, he was himself; at bedtime, he was Frankendog.

Jenny wondered first if there was something wrong with him physically (the answer was no) and then if he wasn't afraid of something in the bedroom (there was nothing to fear, even by highly paranoid dog standards, or nothing new to fear anyway). Strach thought perhaps it was the wind ("Only from you Strach," I would have snorted if I had been quicker). Astrid suspected Obie was just messing with my head; after all, she pointed out reasonably, he was pretty much king of the house, and perhaps he had chosen this way to remind me of it. She suggested that I simply speak to him sternly when he next made to do a runner.

That night, all unfolded as was by now the norm. I took the young nanny's advice and when he leaped off the bed the first time, just brought him back and said in my firmest but still kindly voice, "Obie, just settle down."

He waited barely 10 minutes before leaping off, and again, we went downstairs, only this time, I led him away from his beloved chair to his crate, and went back to bed.

I slept better, but it was on a cold, lonely, acre of bed, and before I nodded off, I wrote a pathetic, mewling note to Diana, the older nanny, who is even more of a dog whisperer than her daughter, and wise about all things canine.

She wrote back the next morning.

"Your dog has grown up," Diana wrote. Apparently, I have inadvertently yielded top-dog status to Obie, and though, she said, "He still loves you and needs you, he knows you love him more than anything in the world, so he doesn't need to try and see if you love him by sucking up to you.

"He is comfortable with his decisions and he has some other place that suits him more to sleep," she wrote.

Then she offered me some tips on how, without being mean, I might regain my status as the alpha dog in the house such that Obie would feel insecure enough that he would start sucking up again and perhaps even deign to sleep on the bed. These range from hand-feeding him half his meal (so that he would remember I was the one with the food) to sharply limiting his time with the tennis ball (I am the queen) to never lying on the floor to play with him (I am always taller and bigger) to waking him from a deep sleep in his chair and then sitting in it for 10 minutes (I can do anything I want) to loudly flirting with the cats on the bed (I have other friends).

"Treat him," she wrote, "as though he has no rights at all."

We spoke on the phone later that day, after I'd had time to absorb her advice.

"Diana," I said, "are you telling me I have to play hard to get?"

"Yes," she cried, "that's it exactly!"

And that is how my beloved dog has become my dog-boyfriend: I am to feign indifference when I love him madly, ration out my kisses when I am most keen to smother him with them, pretend to adore others when it's only him I want and behave as though I don't give a hoot when my heart is breaking.

Oh please: I was never any good at that stuff. I'm going to batter him into submission with attention and affection, and if it doesn't work, so be it. I can still love him.