Tag Archive | destructive dogs

Oy, that dog!

Okay, so let’s get back to Duncan. My not-so-little terror. The one who was leaving messes in the house when we first got him about three months ago. Want to know the good news? Of course: no more accidents! After about a month, he got used to holding it and it’s not an issue. Hooray!

Want to know the bad news? He eats things. First it was little things, like paper we left on the kitchen table. He chewed up the remote, but that only cost $20 to replace, no biggie. Grace had left a hole in our leather couch back when she was going through her destructive phase, and he discovered that and thought it was fun to pull stuffing out and make the hole bigger. When we covered up that hole, he made two new ones. When we covered the couches with scat mats to keep him off the couch, he made a hole in the arm of the couch. He discovered tasty things like the corners of our wooden chairs, or the wooden railing, or the corners of the TV stand. He pulled several books off shelves and ate them one very bad day, after which we closed the doors to the sitting room where the books are located.

Every time something happened, we talked about our options. For a while, we tried to cope by limiting what we left within reach. When it was obvious that wasn’t the solution, I tried playing with him more in the morning, giving him more time outside before I left, giving him extra toys, saving toys only for when we were gone. We subscribed to BarkBox, and our first box was fantastic. We talked about closing them in with doors, but didn’t want to run the risk of them scratching the vintage pocket doors. We talked about gates and crates. I don’t like the idea of crates, no matter how many times people tell me the dogs like it. Personally, I think they get used it, and maybe they like it for short durations and/or when they’re stressed or scared, but you’ll never convince me that a dog actually enjoys being in a crate for 6-8 hours. (Please don’t try. It won’t work.) So in my mind, that’s a last resort. But friends, we’re almost there.

I recently decorated for Christmas, and put out my large Santa collection on the sideboard. (You can see it here.) I thought for sure it was high enough and far back enough that Duncan wouldn’t be able to get to it.

I was wrong. The next day, a bad day, Duncan got into the Santas and destroyed three of them. Thankfully, they were not my favorites and didn’t hold great sentimental value. But it was enough for us to know we needed to be doing more, that our morning play sessions in the yard weren’t enough for him, and we decided to add more activity. One day the husband took him running before work, one day he went to doggy day care, and the next day I took him for a walk in the morning. That day, after his walk, after the previous day at day care, he got back into one of the couch holes, chewed up a reusable grocery bag, and destroyed a small box of post-its. He may still need a lot of activity, but clearly the activity alone isn’t enough to curb his destructive tendencies. And, get this, we just got new couches, because I couldn’t live with the old couches anymore. I mean, these holes were BIG. And looking at them every day was so depressing. (I know it sounds crazy. But in my defense, we ordered them when it looked like the scat mats were going to keep him away from the couches completely.)

So now we have gates, and the dogs get to stay in the kitchen while we’re gone. Friday was the first day we tried it all day. I latched the gates, put the scat mats in front of the gates, and also closed the doors to the living room. Even if they get past the gates, they can’t get to the couches. The husband is afraid Duncan will still be destructive, just in a smaller area. That is a valid concern, and if we see signs of that, then the crate will be next. But I couldn’t do the crate without knowing I’d tried everything else first, especially since I can’t afford five days a week of doggy daycare. Anyway, so far, so good. They were still safely in the kitchen when the kids got home from school, and nothing was destroyed. And we’ve done it again for shorter periods since then, and it seems to be working. (Knocking on wood and crossing fingers here!)

IMG_5272

Sorry, Duncan moves a lot, so he’s blurry. Yeah, he’s a handful. He’s now a whopping 90 pounds of muscle, orneriness, and sweetness. I can’t help it; I still love the big old blockhead. Grace chewed things up for a good two and a half years, just on a smaller scale, so I’m holding on to the hope that he’ll grow out of most of this eventually. If we have to do the crate, I will do it knowing that it’s what’s allowing us to keep him in our home, rather than taking him back to the shelter. That’s not an option for us. So I can get him a super big crate, and fill it with a blanket (that he’ll tear up, which is why I’ll get it from the thrift store) and toys (that he’ll probably destroy) and he will be safe and my house will be safe and maybe we can all live happily ever after.

IMG_5284

This cut is the deepest

When Max unrolled and ate the toilet paper, I laughed. When he destroyed toy after toy after toy, I smiled, cleaned up the mess and bought new toys. When he chewed up two of my Twilight figurines, I sighed and but again laughed at the sight of headless Bella. When he chewed into my yarn bag and ate part of my shawl, I kept my calm, swept up the mess and moved all knitting and crochet stuff out of his reach. But what we came home to tonight was the worst.

It looked like a battlefield coming in the door. He’d found a bag of dried apricots (kept at the back of the counter); all that was left was bits of the bag. He’d gotten into my daughter’s school bag and tossed her shirt across the room, chewed up part of her gym shorts, and eaten her Pop-tarts. That wasn’t the worst. No, the worst was the … I don’t even want to say it … the books.

I’m a book collector. My mom owned a used-book store when I was growing up and I worked with her for ten years, learning everything about collectible books. I’m also a reader, a fast and voracious reader. Those make for a substantial and really cool book collection. We have four 6′ tall bookcases in our dining room. They’re all hardbacks, and most are first editions with dust jackets. Some are valuable only to me, but many have monetary value too.

Now some of you might be hyperventilating right now (as I was as I came home) but rest assured, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. He only managed to pull out two books, and one is still salvageable.

Image

See those scratches across the front? Yeah, those weren’t there before. Now granted, this is not my favorite Dean Koontz book. I am a huge fan of Koontz, especially his early books, and I have a pretty thorough collection. The fact that he chose this one and not the signed first of Whispers or Strangers…well, that’s something to be grateful for. I guess. Whatever. But still. This is a pretty unusual title and a first edition. Not cool, Max.

So what was the other one? I couldn’t tell at first: the dust jacket had been torn from its protective plastic cover and both were in shreds. As I got closer, I saw the initials L E on the front of the book. I also love Louise Erdrich. I first read her in college and was obsessed with her books for a long time. One of my most treasured books is a near fine first edition of Love Medicine, her most famous book, and I was sure that was what Max had chewed up.

Image

Thank goodness, it wasn’t. It was The Blue Jay’s Dance, her memoir of early motherhood. Again, not my favorite of hers, but still, I really enjoyed this book. Not anymore.

Image

 

But it wasn’t really even which books got damaged that affected me. It was that they were Books. Books are part of me. They’ve always been a huge part of my life. I treat them with respect and reverence and love. They are vessels of joy and heartache and wonder and imagination. To see one destroyed like this…it hurts more than it should.

So I’m frustrated now. We were gone maybe an hour, and he had a number of toys to entertain him. He’d been fed. He’d already gotten two walks and two playtimes in the backyard. I don’t know what else to do with this dog except to shut him up in the kitchen or crate him when we’re gone. I didn’t want to have to resort to that but I don’t know what else to do. I love him, but I also love my belongings. I want us to be able to coexist peacefully. So how do I make that happen?