From the moment Cricket entered my life, we set on a stringent regimen of housetraining as prescribed by all the ‘how to properly raise a puppy’-type books, which I had researched thoroughly so as to train the world’s best dog. Unfortunately, Cricket hadn’t read the same books, which led to more than a few moments of angst in our first year.
According to the books, the key to properly training a puppy to use the grass instead of the carpet is to crate train them, creating their crate as their own personal space or den, which they will refuse to soil, and upon allowing them out of the crate, taking them immediately outside where they can do their business. Anytime they are outside of their crate they must be under constant supervision, and at the first sign of the need to expel waste, they are quickly run outside and then praised lavishly once they complete the job.
All well and good with the books, but nowhere in these books, their appendices, or their references, could I find a description of what to do when the dog is scared to death of the crate and refuses to enter. Given her background on the plane trip and the malodorous scent previously described, I can certainly understand Cricket’s reticence upon entering her crate. But I was not even remotely prepared for the ability of a six-pound puppy to avoid being stuffed into a crate by a physically fit 170-pound human. To say that it was impossible to place Cricket into her crate hardly begins to do the issue justice.
At the first sign that I might even glance at the crate, Cricket would run up the stairs at speeds breaking sound barriers as well as several FAA regulations and jump onto the king size bed, crawl under the covers, and sprawl herself somewhere under the covers of the bed. Getting her out from under the covers was no easy feat either, as a mighty small dog in a large bed hiding under a down comforter doesn’t make much of a bump to try to extract. Truly, the only way to efficiently extract the dog from the bed when she wanted to remain hidden involved stripping the bed of all sheets and blankets. Re-making a king-size bed, although not a difficult chore, is not something you want to repeat on a daily basis unless you have a personal penchant for linen layout. However, it can be done, and following five minutes of hunting through the bed, the dog could be removed.
The next step, however, actually placing said dog in said crate, proved a task beyond my physical and intellectual capabilities. Now, I’m not a brilliant man, but I do have a graduate degree in an engineering field and have even taught subjects encompassing the realm of plasma physics and computer chip fabrication at institutions of higher learning. Compared to placing Cricket in her crate, such endeavors were child’s play – figurative ‘cake,’ so to speak.
Getting back to the topic at hand, however, as Cricket was pushed closer and closer to the crate, much like the blowfish in the ocean, she could somehow expand herself to three times her normal size, splay her paws, tail, and head to exact positions of a six-sided star, and hold her posture with the strength of tempered steel, steadfastly refusing to be placed inside the crate. No amount of pushing, shoving, coaxing with treats, or pleading could convince Cricket that going into the box wouldn’t result in her being placed on an airplane for another 1600 mile trip, an experience it became quite obvious she had no intention of repeating. Ever.
Therein ends the attempt to housetrain Cricket using all the ‘book’ methods. As part of her obedience training, however, I happened to ask the dog trainer one day if she could provide some direction in how to best housetrain a dog that had no interest in ever seeing the inside of a crate again. Which led to the development of plan B – Cricket would be confined to the kitchen during the day (where she only in the rarest of circumstances had an accident), and I would set up a bell by the front door which I would use her paw to ring before we went out each time, hoping she would learn to ring it herself. Apparently bells are quite scary to eight-pound dogs, so the results were similar to those of the crate program.
Plan C, also developed by the dog trainer, required Cricket to remain tethered to me by four feet of leash at all other times, under constant supervision. It sounds like an easy enough plan, really. How much can a tiny puppy interfere with your life when tethered to you by a four-foot leash? Oh, the things I learned. Events as mundane as cooking dinner, running laundry downstairs, and even operating a computer incorporate an added spark as you try to also cope with a puppy dog whose entire mission in life is to lick and hug you.
Our first major setback with Plan C occurred in the early winter following several months of a very well behaved puppy dog. Having just gotten out of the shower, I had adorned my skivies when the phone began to ring. I put down the rest of my clothes and picked up the handset, sitting down on the bed to talk to my dear friend Ray as Cricket wandered around the bedspread. About five minutes into our conversation, however, I looked over to see Cricket crouch down and take a leak on the bedspread. I very rudely dropped the phone and scooped up Cricket, telling her bad dog in my best mean voice with a very upset face as I rushed her out the front door and into the area of the yard I had cleared of snow for her to do her business. It was precisely five feet from the front door that I realized I was still clad only in my underbritches. Which guaranteed that this was also the same moment my next-door neighbors pulled into their driveway along with another couple, having just returned from some dinner or movie-type gathering. Not knowing what else to do, and with my feet freezing to the ice on the driveway as Cricket played in the snow (having fully relieved herself on my king size goose down comforter, of course), I couldn’t think of anything else to do but attempt my most genuinely warming smile, wave a greeting to the neighbors, and act as natural as a mostly naked young man in the midst of winter can pull off, all the while supervising a dog in his front yard. It’s a very good think Cricket is a very cute and loving puppy dog.
Upon returning inside and bundling up inside a thick blanket, and after having a heart-to-heart talk with Cricket about the merits of relieving oneself in places other than on top of her master’s king size goose down comforter, and waiting until the master is dressed before having to go out, I heard a noise that sent chills down my spine. No! It couldn’t be! I heard laughter coming from the handset of the phone. Apparently I’d forgotten to hang up in my haste to get the dog outside. Thankfully, Ray is a kind and gentle soul, and with but a modest bribe, has to this day kept what he heard through that receiver to himself.