Crash-proofing the house
We didn’t have a fenced yard yet. It was for this reason that we had been turned down for an adoption the previous day at the Humane Association. At the time, we were deeply insulted to be denied over what seemed like a very minor detail. In retrospect, however, it is now clear that this might actually have been a reasonable stipulation of adoption. When one brings home a dog that has the potential to weigh over 100 pounds, you’d better have some kind of plan.
The first few weeks were relatively easy. Crash stayed alternatively in the half-bath downstairs or confined to the kitchen, which we fenced off using two baby gates. I could easily come home from work and check on him during the day. But Crash was not getting any smaller. It soon became obvious we were going to have to make new arrangements.
We decided from the beginning that upstairs was to be off-limits. It took a lot of reinforcement and the constant use of a baby gate, but eventually Crash adhered to this rule very dutifully. I can only remember two times when he went upstairs.
Once was when he was very young. It was the middle of winter and we decided Crash really couldn’t wait till spring for a bath. We took him up to my garden tub. He was so uncomfortable about being where he knew he wasn’t allowed, his eyes wild, shaking all over until we brought him back downstairs. We vowed from then on to* take him to the vet for baths, especially when the weather did not permit us doing it ourselves with the garden hose.
The only other time I remember him coming upstairs was once when I was in a playful mood and teasing him from the top of the stairs. I was bobbing from side to side and taunting him with a sing-song “Craassh, Craaash, you can’t geeeeet me” He was lying at the bottom of the stairs, obviously vexed that he could not get to me for play. Very suddenly, without warning, he bolted up the stairs at the speed of light.
I was so taken aback that he did this - he had never come up voluntarily before! In my surprise, all I could manage was an incredulous, “Crash!” With this, he seemed to immediately realize his mistake and turned around about 3/4 of the way up, beating a trail back down as quickly as he had come up. It was one of the funniest things I had ever seen, to see him reverse direction so quickly and return to the bottom of the steps and lie back down. I felt guilty for taunting him into something “naughty,” so I followed him downstairs, desperately trying to squelch the laughter and assuring him he had done nothing wrong.
Thereafter, Crash contented himself with sitting or lying at the bottom of the stairs, looking anxiously upstairs until we came down.
As strictly a temporary solution until we could get our fence built, we decided to try staking him out back for a few hours at a time. We experimented with this method while we were home and could monitor him occasionally.
Things seemed to be going well enough the first few times. Then one afternoon we were in the front yard and suddenly heard frantic yelping. We rushed to the back yard to find that Crash had gotten the lead entangled around his feet, apparently had then tried to run, and in the process had broken his leg.
He was truly a pitiful sight, holding up his lame leg and looking at us hopefully, and our hearts sank as the realization set in that we were indeed the most horrible dog parents living in the world. I picked him up and cradled him as gently as I could, and he calmed somewhat; he was clearly in pain, but somehow he seemed aware that we were going to help.
We rushed him to the vet and got his leg set in a cast that seemed horribly out of proportion for his small body. Once the immediate danger had passed, it did make for amusing photos and memories of him hobbling around on what seemed like a tragically ill-fitted peg leg.
Obviously, staking wasn’t going to work.
By this time fall was approaching and the weather was cooling, so we started keeping him in the garage during the day.
One of the happiest sights I have ever seen, and truly the high point of my day, was watching the garage door go up, like a theatre curtain, to slowly reveal my big buddy standing there. Crash would appear, little by little, seemingly frozen in place. It was almost like he had been about to go somewhere or do something and I had caught him quite by surprise. His tail would wave slowly back and forth as he looked intently at me and waited to hear his name. As the words of greeting left my lips, the tail wagging would explode full-fury, and it was all he could do to contain himself to the garage while I pulled the car in. He never darted out, never rushed the car - he just stood at full attention, eyes fixed on me, wagging his tail and waiting for me to open the car door and beckon to him.
We spent several months this way. I so enjoyed seeing him first thing on arriving home, but I cringe now at the thought of him spending his days in a dark, sterile garage. With each passing year, I suppose, he became more precious, and things that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to in his younger days became unthinkable. But necessity at the time overruled.
After a few months, when he seemed to be maturing, I decided it would be nice for him to have a pillow to sleep on during the day. I bought the nicest one I could find - one that matched our decor so it could be used inside as well. We left him that morning in the garage with his pillow, feeling very content that he would rest like a baby all day long.
That evening Kevin returned home to find every square inch of the garage floor blanketed with pillow stuffing, and sitting amid the clouds of pillow innards was one very satisifed Crash.
By the time I arrived shortly afterwards, Crash was still sitting in the middle of the garage floor, now looking extremely ashamed of himself, as Kevin swept up the stuffing all around him. He had been all the time telling him what a bad dog he was, but there was poor Crash looking so truly, deeply sorry for this transgression. He hung his head and gazed up at you with big, soft brown eyes, blinking a look up, then down again. You couldn’t help but forgive him. We reluctantly tried again with another pillow a short time later, and he never repeated his mistake. He came to love his many pillows so much.
By the next spring Crash was well on his way to achieving the size of a small pony. We knew needed to be able to run and exercise during the day. We decided to try invisible fencing.
We researched our options and, regrettably, decided on the least expensive system we could find. Invisible fencing is not a good area in which to cut corners. It worked about as well as a football bat.
He would gladly brave the electrical charge whenever the little children next door would call him. To make matters worse, we discovered that there was a possibility that the collar was shocking him even when he was not crossing the line. Kevin was the one to make this unfortunate discovery when he picked up the collar one day in the driveway and it delivered a prompt and very unforgiving jolt. This method was quickly discarded.
It seemed there was only one thing left to do. The right thing.
Kevin built him a six-foot high wooden privacy fence around the backyard. At last, Crash would have his own backyard.
Kevin had also built Crash a doghouse when he was a puppy, but he planned it on projections of a 65 pound dog. By spring, Crash was pushing 100. He looked ridiculous in it, and it couldn’t have been very comfortable. It pained me that he would have to spend rainy days confined to such a small space.
So Crash got another promotion. Kevin screened in the small deck on the back of our house and from thereafter it became known as “Crash’s house.” It was a 12’ square area with a tin roof, always adorned with a soft rug or pillow to lie on. People always commented that Crash had the biggest, best doghouse in the world. I certainly never saw a better one.
When he screened in the porch Kevin added two doors, one of which he built a dog entrance for. Unfortunately, as it was with most things, this too ended up being a tad too small for Crash. As he grew, his back would scrape on the top as he came inside.
The other door to Crash’s house led to the larger deck that Kevin had added on, and as home-grown projects sometimes go, it never quite closed all the way. Crash learned to open that door from either side with his nose, and usually came and went through there.
It became such a familiar noise, to hear the squeak of Crash opening his door and then the slam as it would shut. It became a sort of audible marker for where he was and what he was up to at any particular moment. Usually it would open and shut without much fanfare - this was indicative of a trip to the bathroom, a short break in his nap, and would usually open and shut again fairly quickly afterwards. Other times there would be a flurry of scrambling feet, followed by series of howling barks, then a very loud bang as the door slammed. This usually meant another dog or cat had come too close to his territory. You could almost gauge the species of the interloper by how quickly he would come to his feet and make it to the door.
The funniest thing, though, was as adept at he was at coming and going through that door of his own accord, when there was someone with him he would always stop and let them open the door and go through first. I know now that this was a sign of respect for us, and other humans, as leaders who should decide when and if he should come or go through the door. Whenever a door was opened, he would lift his eyes to our faces as if to say, “Am I supposed to go?” We would motion him in or out, and he would willingly oblige.
One day when Crash was still fairly young, two or three, I heard a huge commotion coming from his "house." There was a great deal of stomping and thumping - it sounded like a canine wrecking ball had landed in the middle of the porch. I looked outside and Crash’s head was flat to the floor of the porch. His body was flailing desperately in a circle around his head, which mysteriously stayed in one place. My heart leaped into my throat - I was sure he must be having a seizure.
I bolted outside and approached him, soothing him with words as best I could. To my utter amazement, he calmed down right away and became very still. Again, it was as though he knew that somehow I would find a way to help him. It was very fortunate for me that he calmed so quickly, as a panicking 100+ pound dog would have been very difficult to handle.
I quickly took inventory of his body, and nothing seemed to be broken. He was breathing normally, but his eyes were so fearful. As I reached to examine his head, I discovered that his tags had become wedged between the slats of the deck and he couldn’t free himself. I dislodged the tags, consoled him as best I could, brought him inside and melted into a puddle from the adrenaline rush. That was the last time he wore hanging tags of any kind. I just could not risk another episode like that when we weren’t at home.
We had an engraved brass plate made with his name, address and phone number made and had it bolted to a collar. We were very careful to always keep his rabies vaccinations up to date, but I was always afraid he might escape the back yard and someone would think that since he wasn’t wearing tags he must not be vaccinated. I could only hope that the name and address would prompt them to give us a call.
Connie and "The Boys":
Angus, Yellow Lab, CGC, RE, CD
Simon, d.b.a. Flat Coated Retriever, CGC, RE, CD
Gone ahead, but forever in my heart:
Crash, Pit Bull x Rottweiler x Golden Retriever
You are truly gifted!!! I find myself unable to stop reading until I get to the end.....even when Beau is sitting @ the back door looking at me to let him out.
I can't wait til tomorrow's edition ;D ;D
Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful stories.
I love the stories~ and the timeline of pics to go with them. Thanks for sharing!
Ah the beginning of a life long love affair. Funny how quickly their presence becomes part of being home. I particularly liked the sentiments about his doggy door and how the sound was something that could have easily been taken for granted but now in hindsight you relished the comfort of knowing he was simply there and would give anything to hear that just one more time. It made me think of the small seemingly insignificant daily sounds that my dogs make that I will dearly miss one day.
These are great stories. Can't wait for the next one
Thank you again for sharing these wonderful stories with us.
Thanks for sharing Crash with us.
Linda and Zoë, the Umlaut
You have such wonderful memories of such a wonderful dog.
Thanks for sharing them with us.
This is Connie's version of Marley and me but I like this version better!