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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Fergus has a new trick

We came home one afternoon and the dog met us at the door. He was supposed to be in his crate. We assumed we must have left the door unlatched. Fergus likes his crate, but after he wakes from his afternoon nap, he wants out. Now we know he has found a way.

A few nights later we came home from a holiday party and Fergus was happily curled up on the futon, snoring away. His crate appeared to be still closed but he was no longer in it. Then the smell hit me. The poor guy had suffered a blowout of mass proportions in his crate. Of course he can’t stand being trapped in a small space with his own mess, so he scratched and dug at the crate door until he saw an opening and managed to wriggle his way out. He’s like Houdini. Now he pops out of the crate at will.

Fergus’ great escape reminds me of when we had lambs and they used to get out of their pens. Newborn lambs wriggled under feeders and came out the other side, where they were sometimes able to latch onto other mothers for a feed. Their own mother, after a rest and a snack, would stand bellowing at the pen gate, calling them home. We picked them up, put them back in their proper pens and boarded up the gaps in the fencing.

I wish I could leave Fergus out of his crate but for a number of reasons, I don’t dare. He isn’t disciplined enough to stay out of things. And we have four cats in the house all winter. They roam the house during the day, searching out sunny napping spots and patrolling for mice. If Fergus, their favourite creature to tease, were out of his crate all day, they would no doubt start a high-stakes chase. I imagine overturned houseplants, pictures falling down off the wall and lamps crashing to the floor as the cats leap, jump and climb up to higher levels of safety. Not to mention the many tempting snack smells in the house that Fergus might suddenly decide to see if he can reach and sample.

I was trying to remember how my parents handled the dog thing when we were young. I guess they just locked the dog in the basement during the day, when it was too cold for him to be outside. I could do that too, but I would be afraid that Fergus, who is still teething on his molars, apparently, might decide to chew on a handmade three-foot tall dollhouse, or – even worse – one of the Farmer’s taxidermy projects. 

He usually goes into his crate without resistance, but sometimes he hums a wee growl to say he would rather stay on his couch, particularly at night. Fergus won’t be much trouble tonight, however, because he is absolutely exhausted. He spent the day following our granddaughter around the house. When she climbed up the stairs or descended them carefully, one hand on the railing, he went ahead of her, pushing his bottom into her chest to hold her against the wall. I’ve seen a dog do that with its pup, in a video. I think he was protecting her from falling. The Farmer says he was just trying to get close enough to lick the spilled yogurt off her shirt.

Then there was a rousing game of living room mini-golf, where Fergus felt the need to retrieve all the balls after the baby shot them under the couch. He was very helpful, actually. When the baby went down for her two-hour nap this afternoon, Fergus had a snooze too. He recharged his batteries so he could follow her around the house, out into the yard and around the barn for a few hours before dinner. When she finally left after dinner and a bath, he walked her and her mom to the door, then crashed on the mat with a weary groan. He was wiped out. 

Come to think of it, I’m pretty exhausted too. And I have a sore back from lifting a thirty-three pound child up and down all day. I’m a bit out of practice. I thanked Fergus for his help, praised him for not trying to eat food out of the baby’s hand – and asked him to be a good boy and stay in his crate for the night – whether the cats are sitting there taunting him on the other side or not.