Miniature party animal

By Mir
April 11, 2010

My mystery Weird Back Pain got much worse and then it got better—I think that chiropractors are trained to make it happen that way, because if they just instantly cured you, you might feel like their job was too easy. No, first they work on you and you spend the rest of the day wondering if it might just be easier to lay down and die, and then you wake up the next morning going, “Huh. I think I feel better.” Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I am definitely FOR the “I think I feel better” part. (In this particular case I suspect the chiro merely scared my injury into submission. She said she was concerned I might have pleurisy given the location and behavior of the pain. But then I Googled it and decided I was definitely not okay with having that, and POOF, I got better. Woo!)

So, given that yesterday 1) I decided to LIIIIIIVE and 2) the kids were off with their dad, Otto and I decided to spend the day Doing Things. I found myself uncharacteristically concerned about the dog, because in the seven months we’ve had her (wow, I can’t believe we’ve had her for seven months) she’s not been left home alone for more than a few hours at a time. I’m here with her all day during the week, and on the weekends we tend not to be out for too long, and yesterday, well, we planned to be out the entire day.

I tried not to be too neurotic about it. But I am, after all, you know… ME.

I played with her after breakfast and gave her extra treats and finally when the time came, I closed her in her crate and told her to be a good girl and we went off to run our errands.

The first time I became a dog owner, we used a crate for the dog while housebreaking him, and then once he was trained we stopped using it. When that dog turned out to be The Most Neurotic Dog Who Ever Lived (which, it should be noted, didn’t happen until he was a couple of years old), on our vet’s advice we tried to crate train to “help him feel more secure.” That particular dog NEVER bonded with the crate and I always felt like I was torturing him whenever we put him in it.

Licorice, on the other hand, came to us loving the crate. She would enter it of her own volition, in the early days, when she felt overwhelmed. She happily runs to it when you tell her it’s bedtime, or when I tell her I’m leaving and she needs to “go crate.” And so years of believing that crating must be cruel and unusual punishment has been undone as I’ve realized that, yes, dogs really do enjoy cave-dwelling and most of them actually love the crate. Plus, on any given day when I’m here working, what does the dog do all day? Sleep. So putting her in the crate for her all-important eight-hour-long nap doesn’t feel mean.

Licorice’s crate has the same sort of latch that I think most of those “Pet Porter” containment units do, which is two pieces of metal that can be squeezed to “shorten” them, then when the door is closed and you release, one slides into a hole at the top of the door opening and the other slides into a hole at the bottom. I squeezed and closed the door and latched it as I always do, told Licorice to be a good girl, and we left.

When we arrived home many hours later, I opened the door and… was greeted by a VERY excited dog who jumped all over me to express her glee that we had COME BACK! TO HER! BACK! HOME! LOVE ME LOVE ME GIVEMETREATS!

Otto and I exchanged confused looks. Had Licorice grown thumbs and let herself out of the crate? (Hopefully not.) Had I somehow not latched it properly? (More likely.) We had assumed she was safely crated, and so the entire house was open and accessible, which meant that we had no idea what we might find.

Back in her early days with us, if we didn’t read Licorice’s polite “Excuse me, madam, but if it’s not too much trouble, I am in dire need of a trip to the outdoor powder room, please” signs, she would run upstairs to the kids’ play room and crap all over the floor. (Always that room. We don’t know why.) So of course once we got over the shock we went right upstairs, and finding the floor in that room pristine, commenced searching the rest of the rest of the house. We found no accidents, no evidence of any destruction, and despite extensive patting down of her favorite somewhat verboten lounging areas (such as our bed), weren’t even able to locate a tell-tale warm spot to tell us where she’d passed the time. In fact, the only evidence I could find of where she’d recently been was an askew armrest cover on her favorite chair; a sure sign she’d been on her perch, watching out the window for us to come back.

Otto wondered if this meant maybe we should let her have the run of the house while we’re out, from now on, but I said that I think she knew she wasn’t supposed to be out, and so she was mostly good so as not to get into trouble.

“Mostly good” is what Chickadee is, for example, on those rare stints when she’s allowed to stay home alone for an hour or so. “Mostly good” means you don’t do anything obvious.

But Licorice, man, she’s got that same mischievous streak her sister has. We passed the evening quizzing her about her day.

“Licorice! Tell the truth, honey. Did you eat cookies and watch Teen Nick while we were out?”

“Oh, Licorice… you don’t need that treat. You and I both know you probably helped yourself to the chewy sticks in the back of the pantry because no one was looking.”

“Licorice, we know you threw a party while we were gone. Coming clean about it may factor into a lighter consequence for your actions, but continuing to pretend nothing happened is not going to go well for you.”

And my personal favorite: “How many times have we told you, Licorice, that you can’t spend all day on the computer chatting with your friends? Even if you DID go and grow opposable thumbs and let yourself out of the crate beforehand??”

Kids dogs today, man. You have to watch them EVERY SECOND.


  1. feefifoto

    I’ve started trusting our dog with house freedom for those ten minutes when I have to run the kids somewhere. I think she’s still a bit confused since, even though she doesn’t get herself in any trouble, she nevertheless greets me at the door with great enthusiasm and what feels like a little relief that I’ve come back home to relive her of the responsibility of having to be good with no one watching.

  2. Sharon

    Licorice is a lucky dog! I’m sure she understood every question and has already started making plans for her next day home alone. My daughter got a puppy yesterday and is planning to crate train, which looks like a very good idea.

  3. Ironic Mom

    I wonder if twins like to be crated. No reason…

  4. hollygee

    No pleurisy for you. It. is. not. fun.
    That Licorice is the dickens.

  5. Toni R.

    I use a couple of baby gates to corral the dog when I leave the house. One I use to keep her out of the room that contains the cat boxes. I can use the other gate in several different places around the house, originally the dog was only allowed access to the kitchen. Lately we have given her the run of the house with the exception of the bedrooms. In three years of using this system we’ve only had one accident.

  6. Lori N

    We had the same experience of coming home to a un-crated dog, certain that I had forgotten to latch the doors properly. The next day, my husband crated the puppy & then went down to the basement to work…10 minutes later he heard the unmistakable sounds of puppy footsteps. Seems we have a Houdini dog who has figured out how to unlock her crate. A couple of carabiners later & we’re safe in the knowledge that she can’t get out — at least for now.

    Oh, and apparently she can open the door to my husband’s office — he’s watched her do it. That’s what you get for getting a smart dog!

  7. Lisa

    We had a golden retriever that could let himself out of the crate. The first two times my dh thought I had latched it wrong so HE latched it and we set up the video camera on a tripod. Crazy dog figured out how to maneuver that latch open!!

  8. Nelson's Mama

    Nelson has the run of the house and goes in and out through his doggy door.

    When we have to leave him home he waits and watches for us through the glass front door. As soon as he sees the car drive by he makes a dash toward the doggy door and he greets the returning party in the driveway with happy wiggles and an offering of some sort – a toy, a leaf, a stick or a slimy rawhide!

    A Nelson greeting can always make a bad day better…

  9. just beaux

    I am sorry to hear about your back. My wife has had some hip displacement and she recently visited a chiropractor. It helped for a day and then her leg started giving her problems.
    I personally don’t believe they offer a long term solution and they scare me. I think they just manipulate the injury and then take your money. I hope I’m wrong about that because that would be a shame for those who who put so much into them and keep going back.
    Our dogs were crate trained and then one day the black lab had to go to the bathroom and used her back (were guessing) to stretch and separate the rods until the door popped off. We have never been able to keep her in it ever since. Fortunately both dogs can go for long periods of time without having to go outdoors. The thing we frequently forget is to shut the door to where the trash can is. And sometimes the basement door that leads to the cat litter. What is it that dogs like about cats cans and cat litter I’ll never get, but they like that stuff.
    Hope you start to feel better soon.

  10. CarolM

    We have a new horse. Who can let himself out of his stall. He thinks the grass is greener on the front lawn.

  11. The Other Leanne

    Ohhh…I can pretty much see Licorice getting her top and bottom teeth on that latch and squeezing until it opens! She is one. smart. pooch.

  12. Megan

    Still wondering if its too late to crate train my teenager…

  13. margie

    the teenage dog. not to be trusted. you should know better. one day of good behaviour and she has you!!

  14. Woman with Kids

    Our dog can get the garbage open, even though we put the garbage into the garbage disposal, which means a heavy door to pull open. Can’t figure out how he does it, but if he thinks the coast is clear? Away he goes. Luckily he likes his crate because he goes in there when we go out. Otherwise he redecorates with bits of garbage in a trail from the trash to his bed. Lovely.

  15. Woman with Kids

    Ugh, idiot. Not garbage disposal. Trash compactor. You know, same thing…

  16. Heather Cook

    I love crate training. :)

    And also, have you been alternating heat and cold on your back after your adjustment?. Not to overdo the assvice, I had a back injury thanks to my life as a horse trainer and found my muscles were actually working against me and pulling my bones back out of place (at least that’s how the chiro dumbed it down for me!) so I had to allow the adjustment to have time to take affect and allow my muscles to adjust.

  17. Brigitte

    I used to feel absolutely horrible when we had to shut our new kitty in the cold, dank, dark, spider-ridden basement because she’d go all psycho on our old kitty. But it turned out she loved it. She thought of it as “hers” and WANTED to go there all the time for her down-time.

  18. JennyM

    Huh. I always thought pleurisy was an Olde Timey Ailment — as in, some castor oil and a mustard plaster should clear that right up. I had no idea! That does not sound like actual fun.

    Our Mabel’s favorite down-time spot is under our bed; if we can’t find her anywhere else, we look for a telltale paw sticking out from under the dust ruffle. It’s also her safe spot for thunderstorms. So: caves = yes.

  19. Ann Menk

    My shitzhu Teddy loved his crate – he would happily “kennel up” when asked. He would go there whenever things got overwhelming with kids in the house, too. In fact, I caught him taking the kids’ toys out of their toy basket and pulling them into his crate – even a large Super Soaker watergun. The only problem? He was very possessive of his crate – we could tell him “Ted – I am going in your bedroom” and he would race to his crate to defend it. If he had any contraband in there, you didn’t dare reach in to take it. We would have to put him outside and then retrieve whatever it was that he KNEW he wasn’t supposed to have… I miss that little bugger!

  20. Aimee

    Lol! Clever Licorice….

  21. Therese

    Our dog loves his crate and spends all of his waking and sleeping hours, except when he’s bugging to go in and out, in and out, in and out (well, you get the picture). We have more problems with him getting into stuff when he’s outside. He lets himself into the garage, where there are cans of glorious garbage to be eaten and randomly strewn about.

  22. Katie in MA

    I can see it now, the temptation… “Honey, if *Licorice* can manage to be loose in the house for 8 hours and not get into trouble, don’t you think you should be able to handle just ONE hour?!”

  23. Tracy

    I am a true believer in the crate. We call it “kennel up” but all of my dogs have been trained to the crate. It’s their security. Now, Licorice just might have figured it all out. If the bottom isn’t latched, they can push it right open. Once they learn this, they will constantly try to push it open. lol Good luck!

  24. Karen

    I once returned home to find my 12-pound dog out of his crate . . . and the bars spread apart like Superman himself had released him.

  25. mamaspeak

    We had a neurotic dog who first broke the latch on his crate. My husband fixed it and reinforced it w/a piece of rebar. This dog chewed through the back of his crate. This was one of those heavy plastic airline approved ones. Which is hard to imagine. His mouth was bloody & swollen for a week. (Your welcome for the visual.) Luckily, we had a “normal” dog who was well crate trained, and so knew it was just him.

    Glad Licorice is keeping you on your toes.

  26. Karate Mom

    We’ve always crated our dogs when we leave. The big one gets nervous and ends up picking something like a tissue out of the trash can and chewing it up. Then it seems mean to just crate the big one and not the other. I can just picture Neko sitting outside of Holly’s cage, going, “Nanny nanny boo boo!” (Although, now that I think about it, that’s probably what the cat does to both of them!)
    Holly, the big one, will actually just go in her crate when she hears me tell the kids to get their shoes on because we’re leaving. I don’t know how many times I’ve just put my shoes on to go outside and she gets in her crate. Makes me laugh every time!

  27. s

    One of our rescues suffers from SA and along with that, he cannot be crated or confined at all – he goes nuts and ends up with a bloody muzzle. Our “indestructible crate” lasts but his nose loses the battle, but our 2nd rescue (to keep him company and hopefully mean some day/year he can come off his meds?) loves to hang out in the unlocked crate when she needs time away from the kids…and lesson learned, I should have removed the door because last night I came home to blood, blood, and dog poo everywhere. No one is talking, but it involved at least one of the dogs (possible both?) and our poor cat. I had been cleaning up for almost an hour before I even discovered the cat, covered in blood and poo – he must have escaped and stayed in hiding. Fortunately after a bath (yes, he let me and I survived), the blood (and poo) was from the dogs and the cat appears unharmed. The dogs are exhausted but everyone will live except the soiled dog bed and pillow my daughter made. The house has been cleaned and the crate is put away for now…I will get a new dog bed to take its place so we never ever risk an unexpected confinement again – if the crate comes back it will come back with a door removed. I can only be thankful that they all are no worse for the wear physically. Mentally? I think I need more wine…

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