Years ago, I lived in New York City. It was just me and my puppy Lola in the big city. At the time, I felt I had no choice but to crate her each morning when I left for work. She couldn’t be trusted to have the run of the apartment after a few unfortunate incidents that involved her tearing up a 24-pack of toilet paper. I remember opening her crate door after our morning walk and how she’d sadly shuffle inside. Those big eyes and droopy ears were my last sight as I closed the front door.
A dog walker would come over to relieve Lola in the afternoon, but then back in her crate she went. It wasn’t until I walked in the door at 6:30 p.m. that I liberated an energy-filled pup ready to play and run. The best part of my day was seeing how happy she was as she stretched her legs and tore around the apartment. But the guilt I felt crating her each morning weighed heavy on my heart.
I’d never change having Lola in my life, but maybe I wasn’t ready for a dog if I couldn’t give her those basic things.
Flash forward a decade later, and Lola is sadly no longer with me, except in spirit. My family adopted a new dog shortly after we said our sad goodbyes to our longtime companion. Her name is Bagel, and I would never crate her given my regret over my past experience. Looking back, I wish I’d never restricted Lola in such a small space all day long. It seems cruel and unnecessary, and for what? So that I wouldn’t have to worry she’d damage my paper goods? To be fair, there were also a few dramas with expensive shoes. I guess I felt crating Lola was the only way to keep my apartment and belongings safe while I was gone.
Not that Bagel can be trusted any more than Lola. She loves to get into trouble when no one is home and she has the run of the house. I have returned to find half-eaten bags of chips, chewed-on stuffed animals, and throw pillows that were clearly abused in my absence. Maybe my expectations of having my personal property respected are so low now because I’m a mom and I wasn’t when I had Lola. Either way, I chalk up the byproducts of Bagel’s mischievousness to the price one pays to have a pet. While I did what I thought was best for my situation when I had Lola, I know now that dogs really need space and freedom. I’d never change having Lola in my life, but maybe I wasn’t ready for a dog if I couldn’t give her those basic things.
The only way I would crate a dog in the future is if I felt it benefited her safety (you know, like if a poisonous snake was on the loose or something) or if it seemed the dog preferred small, confined spaces to wide-open ones. But as is the case with many pets, the look on their face when you close a cage door on them is rarely one of pleasure, but rather pitiable gloom. It’s bad enough when we go somewhere and leave Bagel behind. It’s as if she is watching us leave, thinking, “How could you?” That is enough guilt to contend with for me.
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