I’ve talked about our pleather furniture, my $20 Wal-Mart rug, and our $35 coffee table, but I’ve never really described just how “dog-proofed” our house is. I think that over the years we’ve gotten so use to the obstacles created for and from the dogs, that it’s become expected that our house is more dog friendly than people friendly. Damn! I just had a thought (doesn’t happen often so I get excited). Maybe they’ve got us trained so well that it’s truly their home and we just pay the mortgage so they’ll let live here! Well crap; I’m a bit ashamed that I just figured that out. I’m going to pretend I didn’t have that realization and continue explaining how we’ve changed the house for them.
I first need to tell you that although most of my family would say they’re dog friendly, they definitely cannot be considered dog lovers. This use to cause me great anxiety when they would come over because I was extremely paranoid that the Mastiffs would slime one of them which totally grosses pretty much everyone out. Additionally, I worried about the Chocolate Labs and their insane ability to stick their head so far into someone’s butt and or crotch that they’re almost lifted off the ground and feel they’ve been violated. Then there’s the anxious Saint Bernard that not only sheds, drools, and hacks terribly but the girl has the ability to let out the deepest, wettest, most horrifyingly loud and grotesque burps with no shame at all. So, we needed to be able to separate the dogs for those reasons and a few more. Such as, we feed them all separately so there aren’t any food issues and they can each take their time eating. We put them in the bedroom area when it’s hot out and we have family gatherings. This gives them the hallway and 3 bedrooms to wander in. We also put them just in the bedroom area at times because that keeps them away from the hall bathroom that guests use. We have another option of putting them in a smaller room we have that leads to the backyard so they have the choice to stay in that room or go out in the yard. Where we put them greatly depends on who is coming over.
Like most dog loving home owners (yes, I’m still calling it our house), we have made use of baby gates for years. You know the ones. They’re made of crappy tan wood and have a cheap plastic latus looking barrier, they’re adjustable but the wider you make them the flimsier they are. Then there’s the arm type piece that locks the gate in place by clamping down and pinching the hell out of your finger if you’re not careful. Then that pinch immediately turns you in to a hand-flinging, finger sucking dictionary of swear words that you’ve never said before and weren’t aware that you even knew. Yea, those gates. We’ve used them to block doorways so the dogs don’t get on the bed, out of a certain room, or in one area of the house. Those are normal things people do. Nothing odd there except that we’ve never used one for a toddler.
When we first got my Saint Bernard boy Benson we knew that gate was not going to contain him in any way from anywhere. There wasn’t even consideration of it being a possibility. I mean we got him at 12 weeks old and he was over 30 pounds (no that’s not a typo)! That gate was no match for him. The first real dog-proof gate we bought is a sturdy white, metal gate about 3 ½ feet tall, adjustable in width and permanently attaches to the wall in the hallway. It has a latch just like a regular yard gate. It made it possible to put the dogs in our room (and part of the hallway) and people could still have access to the bathroom without getting violated, licked, or burped on. To this day that gate works wonderfully. However, I wanted more gates so I could block off more areas; not to limit the dogs’ area but to have more options of where to put them. Thankfully my amazing husband Marc is quite handy and can build anything. He made a similar gate that was also 3 ½ feet tall, also permanent, and really nice. He used quality wood and painted it to match the colors in our house. It swings open like a half door and I love it. That gate was hung so that when it’s closed the dogs can’t get to the front door. Now this was important because when someone rings the doorbell and the dogs start going crazy at the sound, it can be quite difficult to contain two Saint Bernards; one that weighed 205 (Benson) and one that weighs 100 (Zoey). It never failed that when that damn bell rang I got bum rushed and they made it to the door first. Another important thing about keeping them from the front door is that our UPS driver is terrified of our dogs. Even with them behind the gate, which he knows we have. He literally puts whatever he’s bringing on the ground in front of the door, rings the bell, and then darts to the street and waits. I feel bad for him but I’ll admit I laugh sometimes. Certainly he wasn’t the only one that was afraid of Benson so the gate was and has been an amazing dog-proofing tool. In fact, it’s been so great that Marc made another one for the hallway. That’s the area that is hallway/bedrooms for the dogs. Unfortunately, Zoey figured out that with the gate at just over 3 feet tall, she could scale it like an Olympic High Jumper but with less effort. Marc quickly added 12 inches to the top of the gates and he’s so good, it looks like it was meant to be that way. Let’s see, that makes three gates plus the potential use of a baby gate. Perfect!
Our latest dog-proofing is a dog door. Actually it’s our second dog door. Yes, we now have a mini doggy door in our room because we have a long-term foster dog that won’t go out in the dog run due to it having rocks in it. Yup, she has a personal door. Prior to her door, we tried coaxing her into the dog run with treats, we physically put her through the dog door that goes to the run, we carried her outside knowing she’d have to come in through the dog door; that only resulted in her immediately coming back in without going to the yard at all. She was not going outside that way which meant she’d pee on the floor in front of the dog door. I know! It also meant, that she’d poop on my brown Wal-Mart rug too. Talk about rude! I mean pooping on a brown rug? That’s just inconsiderate to those of us who walk on that rug, without socks I might add, and can’t see the poop! So now Shelby has her very own dog door that goes out to the grass without her having to walk on any rocks. You can’t say I’m not trainable. However, she hasn’t pooped or peed in the house since. Victory. Yes, a hole in the wall but no pee and poop in the house still equals victory.
I mentioned earlier that we have a small office size room off the back of our house; it has French doors going into the living room and a door that takes you to the back yard. This allows the dogs to either run around the yard or be in the room. It works perfectly. Since they’re French doors, they are mostly glass which is nice because we can see what the dogs are doing and better yet they know we haven’t run away and forgotten about them. On a rare rainy evening-remember rain equals mud in Arizona-we learned that our boy Jax possessed a talent that we’d been completely unaware of. Wait, let me set it up for you. We had the whole family over, all of whom were sitting in the living room and dining room which those French doors lead into. Most everyone was eating. Some were sitting at the kitchen table while others were watching the football game and using the coffee table to set their plates on while they ate. The little ones were playing with matchbox cars, blocks, and Legos on the floor just inside those doors. The dogs, well they were covered in mud and soaked because they love running around in the rain. Now that I set the scenario I’ll get on with what I’m sure you’re imaging. As everyone was engrossed in whatever they were doing, the French door opened and in came five muddy, soaked, and very excited dogs. It was then that we realized Jax knew how to open doors with handles, which those doors had. It was like a scene from 101 Dalmatians meets Beethoven. They went crazy because finally, finally, they had figured out how to get in with the humans. As they began rushing in, slipping and sliding, kids started screaming, Legos were scattering, and Marc and I were covering more ground than the Arizona Cardinals who were playing on TV. People were grabbing their plates and holding them to their chest like they had a newborn in their hands. Now, dogs being dogs, once they broke in, a couple of them decided to stop in the middle of the room and shake. Again, more screams from the kids as they got the brunt of the water-mud shakes that occurred. Grabbing the dogs was not easy. They thought it was a game of chase and it was, game on. Trying to grab each of them was similar to picking up Jell-O; nearly impossible. We had a house of chaos, with relatives who were convinced that we were nuts (probably true) and that they were not dog lovers. Finally, we got them corralled in the hallway and bedroom area. I was never so thankful for those other gates. We didn’t care about the mud and water and the fact that no doubt we’d be washing sheets and our comforter later. We had other things to worry about. We grabbed towels for the kids, Windex for the TV, and rags for the floor. I looked for some Xanax for my family but didn’t have any; they’d have to find their own way to calm down. Thankfully, a little humor, apple pie with ice cream, and brownies for the kids, helped bring on the calm. I have to be honest here. After everyone left, Marc and I relived the scene in our heads and we laughed so hard for a long time. It’s a night we, and I’m sure my family, will never forget; but no doubt for different reasons.
Yes, we dog-proof our house and I’m certain we’ll continue to do so as we find the need for new things. Yes, we are trainable and, ok, we’re already trained quite well. Yes, we have family members that think we’re crazy because of the dogs we have; as I said, that’s likely true. And yes, we cater to our dogs’ needs more than we cater to our own but with good reason. We do it out of love. We do it because they make our life richer. We do it because they can read our moods and make things better. We do it because they trust us fully. We do it because they love us unconditionally. Most of all, we do it because they deserve it.