The night I posted my last blog I received an email from Cleo’s grandmother Jan. She suggested putting Cleo in her crate for the night. You know those moments when you hear good advice and you think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I had one of those.
Cleo has always been fond of her crate and sleeps in it regularly. A couple months ago, we stopped locking her in at night. That’s when the trouble began. Somehow, I just got it in my head that locking her in again would be going backwards. What a terrific thing to realize that sometimes you have to go backwards in order to go forwards.
The next morning, I got another email from a Bedlington fan suggesting the same solution. Over the next couple days, four or five responded with similar advice and with encouragement not to give up on the shock collar altogether. It may have its uses, they warned. I’ve said it before and I know I will say it again, Bedlington owners are generous, helpful people.
The funny thing is, though, that while Cleo has had wonderful nights sleeping soundly in her crate, I had a dreadful night that first night. Yes, I know she is comfortable in her crate. Yes, I know she spent a good part of every night in there even when she wasn’t locked in. Yes, I have frequently seen her go into her crate to snooze during the day. I still felt guilty about locking her in.
During the first night of her return to lockdown, I had a horrible dream that I had taken Cleo to school and for some reason had left her in the car. I’d arrived at 8 AM and it was now almost 4:30 PM. To make it worse, the day was sweltering and I knew I had not even left the windows down in the car. I couldn’t understand how I could possibly do that to my baby girl. I raced from my office to the lot where my car was parked. In the way of dreams, it was both drastically farther away than in real life, and it took me forever to get there because I felt like I was walking through wet clay that sucked at my feet and wouldn’t let me move.
When I finally got to the car, the two doors on the passenger side were open and Cleo was lying curled up on the edge of the back seat. Someone had seen her in the locked car and had broken in to give her air. I was so relieved to see her! I picked her up and she wrapped her arms around my neck as she always does when she’s had a traumatic experience—the vet, the groomer. Of course, I felt so guilty because she was responding in her usual loving fashion after I’d just abandoned and endangered her.
Then I noticed that she had little mittens on her front paws. I knew that she had been bandaged because she’d hurt herself trying to claw her way out of the car. I recognize the origin of this image. When I was in high school, I read an article in the New Yorker magazine written by a fellow who grew up in India. He was blind from birth. When he was four or five, he and some buddies took a kitten, put it in a box and buried it. Later, they dug it up to see what had happened to it. The kitten, now dead, had almost obliterated its paws trying to dig itself out. The horror of that image has stayed with me for decades. In my dream, this is what I’d done to my Cleo. Sure, she was alive, but that was because someone had come to open the car doors after my unspeakable carelessness.
At this point in the dream, three girls came riding up on bicycles. They were all students of mine. The one in the front looked at me and said, “That was Cleo in there? Mrs. Sherry, how could you do that to her?”
I was trepidatious about writing last week’s post. It is never easy to admit that one’s life isn’t as orderly as everyone else’s looks. I was hesitant about locking Cleo in her crate again. Unconsciously, I was afraid I had let Cleo down spectacularly. How reaffirming it was to learn that others had been in my shoes and had found solutions that they were willing to share.
By Wednesday, we’d had two and a half blissful nights of sleep. The half night was something of an anomaly. My husband has an over-active startle response. It can be delightfully funny, especially when a minor surprise (me standing in the doorway of his studio when he didn’t hear the door open, for example) makes him leap a foot in the air with eyes wide open and mouth agape. Honestly, I’m not exaggerating. It’s not so funny when he doesn’t realize that I am in the bathroom at 2:30 in the morning and he walks in, sleepy eyes downcast, to discover me. Luckily, I had already finished what I’d gone in there to do or who knows what might have happened!
What did happen involved a lot of startled exclaiming that woke Cleo up. Unbeknownst to us, it also woke up the neighbor dog, Boris, who then demanded to go out. He must, as always, have charged the fence growling. We didn’t hear him, but Cleo sure did. She started to whine desperately and scratch at the crate. The only other time she has ever whined that desperately to get out of her crate was when she was a tiny little girl. I ignored her and she piddled all over her crate pad. Between that memory and the still horribly fresh images of my nightmare, I caved and let her out. Of course, the fact that she made a beeline for the fence to check for Boris infiltrations let me know that I’d been had! I’m proud to report, though, that last night she woke up because of late night neighborhood barking, but this time I sat up, fixed her with a stern eye and said, “Cleo, go back to sleep.” She did! Absolute bliss!
Until now, I haven’t addressed the other two bad habits which I referred to in my last post: She jumps up and mouths people with such exuberance that it is really an unpleasant greeting. She never intends to hurt with her teeth, but no one likes a gaping mouth flying at them any more than they like any dangling part of them to be covered with dog spit the moment they walk into the house. Every now and then, she inadvertently connects a tooth to a finger tip and that hurts!
The tricky thing is that she now stops with John and me the moment we tell her to. Tonight at dog training class, she was a little angel with the trainer who praised her for her progress with such warm tones that Cleo and I both blushed a little. She will not, however, stop with anyone else she encounters, in the house, out on the street, at the dog park. She leaps and leaps, gently grabbing their hands in her mouth, nipping at the hem of their shirts (this is a new habit, by the way), and is mightily persistent. I put her in a stand and hold onto her as I’ve been taught, but the minute I let go, she is back at it again.
So here is my plan:
1. Training collar in place (though strength of impulse dialed down a bit),
2. willing subject at the door,
3. door bell,
4. subject enters,
5. encouragement of canine to cease and desist the jumping and biting,
6. repeat as necessary.
I’ll let you know how it goes next time. If I’m as lucky with this one as I was with the last, she should be over it by Wednesday. And I’ll be recovered from my nightmare by Friday.