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Doggie-Sized Den


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.++


5 Responses

  1. UPDATE: Luke also tried his first homemade food tonight: cold leftover rice with broccoli, mixed with a spoon or two of cottage cheese. Sounds nasty but he scarfed it right up.

    Thanks to the home cooks who post dog food recipes, because I would never have thought of this. Another dairy suggestion I saw is plain unflavored yogurt; both seem like good mixing ingredients with a little meat and some veggies. I’m also open to ideas from more experienced dog owners. I know a few things not to feed but not what your dogs particularly like.

  2. Does Luke have Playmates on his mansion’s walls? 😉

    I only know that chocolate is a big no-no for dogs. Cheese is too salty but they love it once in a while.

  3. No chocolate, onions or garlic, they say.

    The other day I tried a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. They were fantastic, the cookie as good as the chocolate – but way too many of them, four dozen large cookies.

    I am sacrificing and eating them all myself (though only two at a time). I copied the recipe in my new cookbook but cut the quantities in half.

    Luke does not have Playmates yet on his mansion walls (and it wouldn’t do him much good if he did; the Humane Society “fixed” him), but he did meet Harlee, a big 27-inch puppy next door. Luke’s pretty good with other dogs, but he had some minor tension at first. Debbie and I think they’ll be playmates soon.

    She said Harlee is pretty much able to play in the yard without running off or being leashed. I’m hoping Luke can learn that; terriers like to run and I haven’t been willing to try unhooking him yet; maybe we can start on the porch in a few days, since he’s not too fond of its steps. Meanwhile we’re still working on basic habits here.

  4. UPDATE #2: Luke and I just spent a few minutes on the porch without the leash. He did great! He stared down the cat next door, but didn’t growl or bark or chase. He did venture down the steps once, but didn’t go very far or leave the yard, and he came back quickly when I called him. I put the leash back on, walked him up the porch steps, then took it back off so he’d get the idea the porch is a no-leash zone as long as he stays. He went to the edge of the steps a few more times, but didn’t try going down and always responded to a mild No.

    Watching him from behind, climbing the porch steps, I appreciate more what a challenge a few steps are for him. His legs flail a little coming up, they’re not efficient for him, more of a scramble to get up. So I understand that he may never negotiate a whole flight of indoor steps to get to my bedroom, and I will pick him up and carry him. He’s good at jumping from the deck through the back door, one tall step, but after that fuhgeddaboudit.

    If we can just get the bathroom habits down, this guy’s practically perfect – and I’m as responsible for his confusion and instability as he is. I’ve only had him four days but he’s already a delight.

  5. Love the decor…matches the collar! See, Fashion Sense amongst the doggies of Indiana! Cool!

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