Crate…

I worked from home half a day today (the other half given over to Jorah’s first vet visit). Most of the work today consisted of cleaning three days of backlog email out of my inbox, so it wasn’t exactly heavy lifting. It did, however, mean that I had to do some reading for comprehension… and that trying to keep one eye on that and one on a creature who’s still trying to learn the house rules was going to end in badness on both sides.

Enter the crate. It’s a big crate. Probably sized for something more like a great dane than a 35 pound puppy. I was determined to let our new boy ride out the four hours unassisted – but next to a very relaxed lab who loves sleeping all day while I’m at the office. Aside from the a few short bouts of whining about 90 minutes in, Jorah took to the experience as well as anyone could expect.

It’s going to be harder – on both me and him – when I actually head back to the office and he’s left to his own devices for the entire day. I know that means housebreaking is most likely going to take a giant step backwards… but balanced against having an entire room chewed to hell by a pup who has no problem vaulting gates or scaling exercise pens, it’s just going to have to be what it is.

I’ll be able to check in during the day with the laundry / dog room camera, but I’m really not sure if knowing I can follow along the entire day live on camera is something that will make the whole experience worse or better. Worse, I assume, since it means being able to see everything but do absolutely nothing about it. That level of voyeurism is decidedly not one of my favorite things.

Guilt…

I’ve been feeling guilty lately. Because I’ve never really trusted them not to either pee all over everything or shred every rug in the house, Winston and Maggie have slept in their kennels at night since they were puppies. They seemed find with it and since dogs sleep about two-thirds of the day anyway, I sort of figured it was no harm/no foul. It was leaving work late the last two days that got me thinking, though… On a typical weekday, when I leave on time and get home on time, they’re in their crates about 17 hours a day. That leaves seven hours for wandering around, sniffing, pooping, barking, and doing dog stuff. When I leave early or get home late, of course, that number decreases dramatically. And that’s when the guilt started.

Intellectually, I’m convinced that both of them are perfectly happy snoozing in their crates as they are on the living room floor. Emotionally, though, I felt a compulsion to give them a shot at having the run of the house at night. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable enough to let them wander all day while I’m gone, but surely if I’m there at night there’s a limit to how much trouble they can get themselves into without waking me up, right?

Well, it’s so far so good. Last night was the first step in this grand experiment. When I went to bed, Maggie sprawled out taking up more space than seems possible for an 80 pound Labrador. I’m not sure how big a fan of that I am yet, but it seems that the precedent is already set. Winston, I’m fairly certain, slept in the basement until around 3AM, when he came upstairs wanting an early morning belly rub. I’m not sure I’m going to be a fan of that, either. Other than those relatively minor issues, the test run went well. Nothing got destroyed. Nothing (obvious) got peed on. And they both seemed perfectly happy to lay around the bedroom until I got ready to take them out this morning.

Like I said, I know it’s nothing but my own guilt at getting home late that’s driving this, but I secretly hope they’ll prove trustworthy enough to justify this new degree of freedom.

Breaking out all over…

This is the story of a dog. Well, it’s mostly a story of a dog. Let me start off by saying that this has not been a good week for Maggie, my usually good natured chocolate lab. On Saturday night, she managed to knock the drip tray of the George Foreman grill off the counter and lap up most of the still warm hamburger grease. Yep, I thought to myself, you’re going to be sick tomorrow. Little did I know that it wouldn’t take that long. Both Maggie and Winston usually sleep in their crates in the back bedroom and that’s why I was surprised to hear the scraping of a furry little paw on my bedroom door at 6:30 Sunday morning. Getting up to investigate, I was greeted with the nightmare scenario of patches of liquefied poo… in the living room, in the office, and all over the pup’s bedroom. In her efforts to franticly escape the rising tide in her crate, Maggie clearly flailed wildly about… as evidenced by flung poo reaching the six foot mark on the wall.

First step… toss the dogs out to the back yard and open the windows. Second step… mitigate as much of the damage as possible with paper towels and whatever cleaning liquids I happen to have around the house. Third step… wait for Walmart to open at 8:00. To cut a tragically long story short, I came home from Walmart (incidentally the only place open in the entire south at 8:00 on a Sunday morning) with a steam cleaner and spend the next ten hours or so washing, rinsing, and repeating. The evidence of evil past was fairly well taken care and I thought the worst was behind me.

I had been fasting Maggie for 24 hours and after the first post-explosion feeding on Monday, I was happy to see that things seemed a little more solid. You can imagine my disbelief when I woke up this morning to one more round of the craptastic chocolate lab. At least this time she didn’t get out of the crate and the damage was more contained. Still, running the steam cleaner at 5:00 on a Tuesday leaves something to be desired. Happily, I managed to clean and disinfect a bedroom, scrub down a crate, and still made it to work only 45 minutes later than usual. I’m hoping this isn’t a category that I need to start thinking of in terms of building a personal best record.

Before leaving for work, I drug the now clean and shiny crate through the house and made sure it was well wedged onto the linoleum. At least if there was another explosion, it would be easier to clean. Of course that was all before I got home this evening and discovered that through the last three days, Maggie has clearly figured out how to open the door to her crate or at least squeeze between the bars. Thinking it was a fluke, I put her back in the crate when I left to take Winston for his annual checkup (and pick up some drugs for Maggie). Of course when we got back form the vet, she was sprawled out in the middle of the kitchen floor sans crate.

It seems my beloved lab is breaking out all over. Tonight we’ll see if she can beat the marvel of zip ties and a newly engineered lock mechanism. I have a terrible feeling that she’s going to be better at breaking out than I am at keeping in. Wish me luck.

When you least expect it…

With Winston pushing a healthy 11 months this week, I had forgotten that occasionally puppy parenthood throws you a bone when you least expect it. I got home this afternoon to find only two small puddles and not a pile of poo to be seen in the entire house. Maggie is 9 weeks old now and I know this is only one small triumph in the greater battle, but when you spend all day anticipating the worst, occasionally you’re pleasantly surprised by the best. And that’s why it pays to be a pessimist. 😉

Escape artist…

When I got Winston, I was able to basically leave him in a pen in the kitchen secure in the knowledge that he wasn’t able to get out. This arrangement worked until he was about five months old and the random peeing on the floor had stopped. After that, the baby gates at the kitchen doors were good enough to keep him contained whenever it was necessary. Silly me, I assumed that the same general procedures would work for Maggie too. Yeah, assumptions apparently will get you in trouble.

Maggie stayed in the pen for a grand total of 36 hours before she discovered that she could climb over it. Of course I didn’t discover this until I noticed that she was sitting with Winston in the middle of the kitchen floor. No problem, I thought, I’ll just have to start leaving her in the wire kennel when I’m out of the room. Having come up with my new plan of attack, I left her in the kennel when I went to get a shower this morning. Apparently, Winston figured out how to spring his little sister from the outside because once again, she was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor when I came back.

So now she’s in the big plastic travel kennel and neither of them seem to have figured out how to break the code on that one yet, but it seems as if it’s only a matter of time before the escape artist strikes again.