It is a fact undisputed by the parents of every small child: give the kid a big present and she’ll spend more time playing with the box than the toy inside it.
When I was little I was that way, and so were you. Little ones like kid-sized environments.
As an adult I’ve come to admire parents who buy their children kid-sized chairs—not just a highchair for din-din, but a kid-sized rocker and a kid-sized lawn chair. We didn’t have those when I was a kid. In my family children who were old enough moved from a crib to an adult-sized twin bed. I suppose it shows the affluence of today’s families that they can afford to buy furniture a child will only use for a little while. It also shows a sensitivity to the child’s needs and perspective. Who wouldn’t have fun in a modrocker?
Dogs and cats are the same way; they love places that fit them. My little terrier Luke slept under my bed the first few nights not only to hide from me and feel safe, but because the low “ceiling” felt proportional.
I am having to learn to look at things from Luke’s point of view. And today I reversed an earlier decision, went out and bought him his own little “den.”
He loves it. What I saw as a cage he sees as his own personal Playboy mansion. It’s got his Luke-sized blanket, his kitty toy (good for poking, chasing and chewing) and best of all, it’s too little for me to get into.
We drove to Watseka again to buy his crate. For the first time he jumped into the back seat; he approached it four times before giving it a try, but now it’s one more thing I don’t have to do for him. His legs aren’t very long, that’s all, and sometimes steps look too tall.
We found that the Big R store (sort of a country K-Mart) carries the Science Diet that we’re probably going to switch to when his current Eagle Pack food runs out. That’s what he was on at the Humane Society, and his vet Dr. Kay says it’s very good, but she sells Science Diet and recommends it, and now I can compare her prices here in town with a large retailer. It’s good to have more than one source.
But this post is mostly about “the cage.” I had the wrong attitude about it. It’s going to help us with housetraining, because at bedtime I’ll shut the gate and he won’t be pooping at 4 a.m. in the living room. We’ll get on a regular schedule now that he’s eating well. The crate is a tool to help us learn to live together without any stress. When I have to leave him for a little while to run errands, I won’t have to take him downstairs to the cold ugly basement; he’ll be ensconced in his own little pad in the dining room. When he’s sleepy in the middle of the day, he can take a snooze in his own special place whenever he wants.
What I saw as confinement (bad, freedom-limiting), he sees as his right-sized sleeping quarters. I have to learn that he’s a dog, not a human. Dogs are domesticated wolves and wolves sleep in dens. I didn’t even have to remodel the house and now he’s got his own den!
I’ve been pretty clear about other people’s mistakes in anthropomorphizing animals (he’s not my baby, I’m not his daddy, and I’ll be damned if he’s sleeping in my bed), but I’m having to learn to think like he does. I don’t want him jumping on other people, so that means I can’t let him jump on me either. I am the leader of this pack. Since he’s not buying the chow, I’m the one who decides things here.
When I get down on his level to play, we can roll around like terriers and have all kinds of fun. At other times, no can do.
I’ll never be Cesar Millan or Generalissimo Franco; Luke’s a little spirit of joy, affection and comfort, and I want to be those things to him too. But when he’s sick or hungry or needy, he needs a grownup who looks after him.
I gave him the best possible comforter, my late brother Steve’s stadium blanket with the name of That Other School on it. (He went to Indiana University while the rest of us are all Purdue people.) It’s totally appropriate that the IU logo be the covering for my mutt’s butt, especially since Purdue art covers the walls of the dining room. And since Luke couldn’t wait to have his own little house to live in, everybody’s happy.
No pooping in the house, buddy, though I suppose it would be okay to use the IU blanket in an absolute emergency.++