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By Dave Jaffe

[This article is part of “Sleeping Between Giants”, a new series that explores life – if you can call it that – with a terrier.]

In a perfect world, dogs don’t sleep on the bed. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in Budleigh’s.

GIANT 1: “Honey, wake up! WakeupWakeupWakeupWakeupWakeup!”

GIANT 2: “Dave! What?”

GIANT 1: “Budleigh’s whining.”

GIANT 2: “So you woke me?”

GIANT 1: “He’s in his crate. Alone. In the kitchen. What else was I to do?”

BUDLEIGH: (Distantly) “I’m innocent!”

GIANT 2: “Well, you’re a grownup. Go fix it.”

BUDLEIGH: “I’ve done nothing! You have the wrong dog!”

GIANT 1: “But if I go, he’ll mark me as a sucker. You go. He doesn’t like you.”

GIANT 2: “What is that supposed to mean? Of course he likes me!”

GIANT 1: “Not like like. He senses that you have an agenda.”

BUDLEIGH: “I smell gas! I can’t breathe!”

GIANT 2: “Dave, I walk him. I feed him. I brush his coat. For God’s sake, I brush his teeth when I can get near them—ˮ

GIANT 1: “Sounding like an agenda.”

BUDLEIGH: “I can be a credit to the pack. I hunt! I kill without remorse! I’m terrier strong!”

GIANT 2: “Well, since he already hates me—ˮ

GIANT 1: “No one said ‘hate’—ˮ

GIANT 2: “—you go let him out. You two have a little doggie party at 3 a.m. and drink shots, and get tattoos. I’m going back to sleep.”

BUDLEIGH: “Damn your agendas!”

Allowing your dog to share the bed is no minor concession. Unless limits are clearly established, your dog can be quite demanding. In the case of a terrier, such demands are like those the Pharaoh made of the ancient Hebrews: “Do as I command or face destruction!” Coincidentally, that’s also the campaign platform of three Republican presidential candidates.

Before making any changes to sleeping arrangements, gauge your willingness to accommodate a dog by asking yourself a number of probing questions, most of which begin, “Why does this God damn dog…”

How big is my dog going to grow compared with how big I’m going to grow?

With most breeds, it’s fairly simple to estimate the limits of their full growth. But mixed-breed rescue dogs like Budleigh are unknowns. With proper nutrition, their growth is limited only by the combined military’s ability to destroy them. (See Clifford, the Big Red Menace.)

Like most dogs, Budleigh can increase his mass at will by absorbing nitrogen atoms from the atmosphere – a process called Science.

Like most dogs, Budleigh can increase his mass at will by absorbing nitrogen atoms from the atmosphere – a process called Science.

However, knowing that Budleigh is some sort of terrier thing made us confident that he wouldn’t grow any larger than a Mini Cooper. When our veterinarian first inspected young Budleigh, I asked him to predict his adult size. The vet spread Budleigh’s paw, caressed his ears, scratched his neck.

“25, maybe 30 pounds,” he snapped with the confidence of a carny worker.

“Just like that, you can tell? Don’t you have to, I don’t know, cut off his tail and count the rings?”

NOTE: Don’t joke with veterinarians about cutting off a dog’s tail. They look at you sternly and you don’t get the free doggie toothbrush.

By the age of two Budleigh reached his full size and weight – around 27 pounds, much of that from shoe leather. Because of his compact size and the maturity he had demonstrated except around shoes, we decided to allow him to sleep with us on a probationary basis pending the approval of Brisby, our bed’s canine union shop steward.

Brisby rubber stamped our decision, which he always does, especially during an election year and Budleigh joined us on the bed.

So I’m sleeping here. Then there’s this dog, And way over there’s my wife. That ain’t gonna fly, if you know what I mean. Any advice?

I’m not sure that I understand what you’re…Oh! Ohhhhhh! (Nervously tugging at shirt coller.) Okay. Okay, let’s talk about dog…uh…positioning, shall we?

In repose, dogs tend to encroach on their owner’s space in much the same way that the larval Alien creature “encroaches” on their victim’s stomach lining.

Animal behaviorists recommend either of two responses: Correct through training or give up. As a dog owner and pack leader, you’ve a responsibility to devote the time and attention needed to correct through training, then give up.

Training our formerly alive and exceptionally bright terrier Oxford was simple. He curled up at the foot of our bed, then when Denise fell asleep, he stealthily moved up and snuggled all night against her back. Not my back. So, problem solved!

Brisby was a different challenge. A student of Mahatma Gandhi and schooled in the tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience, he’d lie between us, then go utterly limp when we, or several hardy police officers, attempted to move him.

Though no bigger than Budleigh, Brisby could, through some complex rule of physics, increase his mass by 400 percent. Lifting him was like hoisting a locomotive with several cars still attached and drooping onto the track.

Gently but firmly pushing him worked no better. His neck would bend until his head was in danger of snapping its moorings. Guilt outweighed our comfort.

“He’s like a superfluid,” claimed my son, a mechanical engineer, as he once struggled to raise Brisby a foot above the bed. “He’s flowing through my fingers, then reforming out of a pool of dog.”

Eventually, Brisby claimed the foot of the bed as his own, probably annoyed that Denise and I radiated too much heat.

I’m not sure that constitutes training.

Budleigh sleeps between us giants. Training goes slowly.

GIANT 1: “OK, Budleigh boy! Time to move for nite-nite! Come! Come! Come!”

BUDLEIGH: “No, I’m good!”

GIANT 1: “ComeComeComeComeComeComeComeCome!”

GIANT 2: “Show him the cookie, Dave.”

GIANT 1: “He sees the cookie. He’s looking right at the cookie! Cookie, Budleigh!”

BUDLEIGH: “Any shoes?”

GIANT 1: “Give him a little push, Hon. Get him started.”

BRISBY. “Go limp, you fool! Go limp!”

GIANT 2: “I can’t move him. What’s he made of, depleted uranium?”

GIANT 1: “Budleigh! ComeComeComeCome!”

GIANT 2: “CookieCookieCookieCookie!”

BUDLEIGH: “Shoe? Shoe? Shoe? Shoe?”

BRISBY: “Keep hope alive, brother! I’m callin’ a strike vote!”

I call my terrier “Edgar Rice” because he “burrows” under the covers. Get it? See what I did there? Anyway, I could kill him.

Because of their tenacious demeanor, killing a terrier is at best a temporary solution and usually just irritates them. Better to understand the basis of this all-too-common burrowing behavior and take comfort knowing that even the most determined diggers will stop before reaching the Earth’s core.

Behavioristically speaking – which is best done in a stilted, British accent while polishing wire-rim spectacles – certain canine breeds are small-prey hunters. Digging into narrow tunnels to flush out rodents is wired into the very genetic code of terriers, dachshunds and, sadly, my Aunt Carla who, to her credit, kept an amazingly tidy pantry.

Convincing Budleigh that there are relatively few rodents in our bed and that those are strictly controlled is hopeless. Instinct rules. And if no vermin are to be found, at least he can take comfort buried in a confining space under 20 lbs. of bed linens without light and a dwindling air supply.

GIANT 2: “Dave, is that your cold foot? For the sake of God, please tell me that’s your cold, slightly moist, snoring foot.”

GIANT 1: “Hon, I’m in the bathroom.”

GIANT 2: “Ewwwww! Budleigh’s under the covers!”

GIANT 1: “I know. He’s been there for hours.”

BUDLEIGH: “Good news! No rats.”

GIANT 2: “Do you think it’s safe? Can he breathe?”

GIANT 1: “Yeah, I worry about that, too. Maybe we should put a canary down there?”

GIANT 2: “That’s a good plan, Dave. And maybe a little camp stove.”

GIANT 1: “And a portable generator with big, doggie-friendly rubber buttons.”

GIANT 2: “And an emergency whistle—ˮ

GIANT 1: “And a self-sustaining potato crop—ˮ

GIANT 2: “And Matt Damon!”

GIANT 1: “Naw! Budleigh’s black. The Academy will just snub him.”

BUDLEIGH: “Shoes! Don’t forget shoes!”

When a young dog permanently leaves his crate to take his place on the family bed, it is a cause for celebration much like a Bar Mitzvah.

“Today I am a Man,” they proclaim. “Only, you know, a Dog.”

And finally, until it’s needed again your dog’s cumbersome, old crate can be safely stored away. Under the covers at the foot of your bed next to the camp stove.

###

This article is part of “Sleeping Between Giants”, a new series of columns on the Write Good!: The Blog blog.

Sleeping Between Giants explores life – if you can call it that – with a terrier.

Your feedback is welcome, probably. dj

Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.writegoodtheblog.com, is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.

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By Dave Jaffe

How different the rules for crate training a dog would be had the Constitution of the United States been signed by Thomas Jefferson’s hound, Monroe Doctrine.

JEFFERSON: “Good and reasonable gentlemen, with the signing of this treatise we forthrightly express the unity of Americans to cast off the oppressive collar that is the tyranny of Britain!”

FOUNDING FATHER PERSONS: “Hear-Hear!”

JEFFERSON: (Stoops to affectionately cradle sleeping dog’s head) “And also cast off the oppressive collar that Monty’s wearing. Who’s a GOOD boy? You’re not a tyrant! No, you’re not! Oh, no you’re not!”

BEN FRANKLIN: (Quietly to John Adams) “Has he had any sleep?”

ADAMS: “I’ll get him more coffee.”

JEFFERSON: “Ohhhh, Monty’s a GOOD American! Go fetch the quill! Can you get the quill?”

Crate training can be a very effective way to acclimate a new pet to your home. The method works better with dogs than, say, fish due to the porous nature of the bars. First-time puppy owners are sometimes reticent to crate train, thinking it cruel. However, dogs tend to take well to crates because by their natural instincts they are “den-dwelling” animals rather than “seed-bearing” or “conservative-leaning.”

Properly implemented, crate training provides your pooch with its own safe, secure, well-defined space from which it can control its vast, off-shore financial empire. A crate also aids in housetraining, as dogs are averse to soiling their den – a stimulus-response reaction behavioral scientists refer to as “shitting and pissing all over themselves.”

Patience and consistency are the most effective approaches to crate training. Also, the crate should always be associated with something pleasant for your pup – a soft towel or blanket covering the floor, a favorite toy, small food treats, cable.

Never, never use the crate as a punishment because:
a. Who the Hell do you think you are! And,
b. Get out!

We’ve enjoyed great success crate training our succession of dogs. As a puppy, Oxford, our formerly alive, bunny-killing terrier mutt, quickly took to the crate kept downstairs in the kitchen. But that changed when he realized life was more fulfilling upstairs in our bed, which had been true until he joined us.

Brisby, our good-hearted schnoodle also known as Saint Brisby of the Martyred Bunnies, would have stayed in his crate forever, locking himself in at night then tossing the keys onto the kitchen table. But the inequity troubled me, so when he came of an age he joined Oxford, who grudgingly relinquished the northeastern-most corner of our bed, an area referred to as Sinai.

With Budleigh, our year-old rescue dog who chiefly is constructed of bits and pieces from unpopular terrier breeds, I planned to get this crate training just right. I know nothing of Budleigh’s past. We adopted him from a shelter after police in Waukegan, Illinois picked him up on the streets, charging him with shoplifting and prostitution.

Budleigh doing a 3-to-5-year stretch. Or 21-to-35 in dog years.

Budleigh doing a 3-to-5-year stretch. Or 21-to-35 in dog years.

Within our safe place Budleigh would have a safe place of his own. His Fortress of Solitude with a rubber bone. The Bat Cave featuring a faded pink blankie. Switzerland behind skinny, little bars.

We named it The Budleigh Box.

As a humorist writing a dog blog I meet a lot of convicts. They all confide that the first night in The Big House is the hardest.

When that cell door slams behind you, your life is over, they say. You’re just another number wearing a rabies tag with yet another number. And maybe an ID chip. You know, in case you get lost?

Help transition your new dog to a crate through a series of small, gentle steps, the first of which is to figure out how to put the crate together. This represents an excellent bonding opportunity between Canine and Giant.

GIANT 1: “Is this the bottom panel? I think this is the bottom panel.”

GIANT 2: “No, that’s the top or a side. Or maybe just packaging.”

BUDLEIGH: “Can I eat this?”

GIANT 1: “Aren’t these supposed to snap into place? I heard no snap.”

GIANT 2: “There was definitely a snap. Or a snappish kind of click.”

BUDLEIGH: “I’m just gonna eat this!”

GIANT 1: “Well, was it a click, like a bat’s echolocation system, or a snap, like when the Alien’s teeth tear through a space helmet?”

GIANT 2: “Dave, I don’t know what that means. No one knows what that means!”

BUDLEIGH: “I’m eating this!”

GIANT 1: “The top panel connects with a black rubber strap. Where’s the strap?”

GIANTS 1 & 2: “Budleigh! NOOO!”

BUDLEIGH: “Definitely a click.”

Terriers are naturally inquisitive, even those that have been convicted. Once the Budleigh Box’s structural integrity was secured and the Chicago building inspectors paid off, Budleigh climbed in to explore his new space. When he flopped down for a nap, I closed the door but stayed nearby to keep an eye on him.

Brisby also kept tabs on Budleigh. Having long ago graduated from a crate, Brisby now served as a prison trustee, wheeling his library cart past Budleigh’s cell and preaching The Word of the Lord.

All day, Budleigh seemed very comfortable in his crate, coming and going in accordance with the terms of his work-release agreement. At bedtime, he climbed in without complaint and, with visiting hours concluded, the rest of us headed upstairs to bed.

Whining is a common practice by dogs to test your resolve. In that way they are much like telemarketers. The challenge comes in knowing how long to ignore them and when to give them your credit card number.

GIANT 1: “Hon, he’s crying.”

GIANT 2: “That’s a car alarm, Dave.”

GIANT 1: “Nonsense! How could he set off a car alarm? He’s too small. He has no thumbs. He’s locked in a dank, rat-infested Hell hole. How long is this torture to go on?”

GIANT 2: “Listen! It’s stopped. Budleigh’s fine. So is the car.”

GIANT 1: “Wait! You hear that? That’s definitely a dog crying.”

GIANT 2: “That’s the NCIS opening theme. We’re watching NCIS. They also play a kind of warble before commercials. That also won’t be a dog crying.”

GIANT 1: “Unless he warbles when he cries. I’m going to check on him.”

GIANT 2: “Dave, he’s been in his crate six minutes. Do not disturb that dog!”

After the other giant had fallen asleep I snuck out of bed. She was awake when I returned.

GIANT 2: “Is that Budleigh?”

GIANT 1: “No, no! I checked on him, but he was asleep. This is just a big piece of chocolate cake with white frosting on the paws and the chest.”

GIANT 2: “You woke a sleeping puppy and brought him up to our bed?”

GIANT 1: “I was worried he’d warble.”

Crate training was going to be tricky.
###

This article is part of “Sleeping Between Giants”, a new series of columns on the Write Good!: The Blog blog.

Sleeping Between Giants will explore life – if you can call it that – with a terrier.

Your feedback is welcome, probably.
dj

Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.writegoodtheblog.com, is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.

Read Full Post »

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