When Wylie first came to live with me, he came with a note of caution. He also came with a number of signs on his kennel inlcuding, “Live Animal,” “This Side Up,” and the classic “I’d rather be fishing” (I don’t doubt for a moment that he would have preferred fishing over air travel). But what Steve told me over the phone was, “He’s gonna trash your house.”
For the first ten months, everything went splendidly. When I left for work, Wylie would watch me out the window and when I returned, he’d greet me at the door. After a few weeks he even started imitating Snoopy, but instead of sleeping on top of a doghouse, he’d sleep on top of the couch with his head strategically positioned so he could see out the window. It was a good arrangement and I soon forgot about Steve’s warning.
Over the course of the summer I became increasingly busy with work and the planning for the Jaycees’ participation in a series of events that became known as “Pumpkin Season” (with three back-to-back “Paint-A-Pumpkin” events in under a month, the label certainly fit). All this activity necessarily left me with less time at home and Wylie noticed. When I came home from Oktoberfest, one of the sofa cushions was in ruins with pieces of stuffing scattered throughout the first floor.
There was no point in getting angry with Wylie, he wasn’t going to make the association between his actions and my anger, so I did nothing. Assuming it was a one-time occurrence, I left him loose in the house the next day while I went to church. It wasn’t a one-time occurrence, when I got home a second cushion had met its fate.
Over the next two years, any time I had to leave the house, Wylie spent the day in his kennel. First in the plastic travel kennel, and later, after he’d shown a talent for breaking the latch on that one, a metal cage. As evidenced by his frequent escapes and attempted escapes, Wylie never liked spending time in the kennel, but we at least got into a routine where Wylie would already be in the kennel before I came downstairs.
Although he accepted the cage, it was clear that Wylie didn’t like it. He had frequent anxiety attacks, drenching himself in slobber and more than once hurting himself. Needless to say, I felt quite guilty about it, but what was I to do? As much as I didn’t want him to have anxiety attacks, I didn’t want him to destroy the furniture either. So I did some experiments.
The first experiment, conducted a few months after the first couch incident, was to try leaving him out during the day. I started out leaving him alone and out of the cage for a few hours at a time over a long weekend. It didn’t work, when I came back from work on Monday there was another (mercifully undamaged) cushion in the middle of the living room.
Over the past couple years, I’ve tried the experiment a few more times. The most promising one was when I tried leaving him in my bedroom. That worked great for the first week. Then I went out of town for a weekend, leaving him at the kennel. I picked him up on Sunday, giving him the day to re-acclimate. It didn’t work. I came home from work and found that in his efforts to find me during the day, he’d tried digging out of the bedroom. There were shreds of carpet everywhere!
Back in May I decided to repeat the experiment with leaving him in the bedroom. This time there was more than a month before I’d be going out of town, giving Wylie plenty of time to get used to being in that room. Just to be safe, I decided to take a lesson from the previous experiment, bought the smallest chair mat I could find, and cut it down to fit in the doorway. That way there if he tried digging again the damage would (hopefully) be limited.
The experiment seems to have worked. I’ve been out of town twice in the past six weeks and Wylie hasn’t destroyed the house.
One of the results of Wylie’s anxiety attacks has been an incredible amount of drool on the floor and bars of the cage. The result is that over a short amount of time, the cage has rusted and become quite an eyesore. Wylie seems to be OK staying in the bedroom all day (no doubt the softer bed is as much of an attraction as the larger amount of space), so on Saturday I took the cage apart and plan to put it out for Tuesday’s recycling pick up.
Wylie spent most of Saturday smirking.