Happiness is a warm puppy…at least that’s what Charles Schultz indicated in his famous Peanuts comic in reference to Snoopy the eccentric beagle, who behaved more human than canine. Arguably, Snoopy was the most popular Peanuts character and was also my favorite even though I look more like Charlie Brown. We have our resident character Hershey, the precocious labmaraner, and she makes Snoopy’s antics look bland. They are both dogs, they play on top of their houses, they carry their water bowl and they are omnivores, but the similarities end there. Snoopy is more resilient than Hershey. Even the changing seasons that normally persuade us to change our dress and a few habits don’t interrupt Hershey’s perpetual ambition to live life her way. When the weather turns cold we invite Hershey to sleep in her crate and we place it in the entry so she’ll be warm. Most outdoor dogs would be thrilled spending the night indoors, but our dog had other ideas.
- First night — The obedient puppy. She never stayed in the house before and had not been in a crate since the day we brought her home. I let her out of her pen, asked her to do her business and invited her in. She was happy but confused because she couldn’t find her dog mat. When we asked her to go in the crate she refused so we wrestled her into the crate. It was tough and she hated it but she was warm and we were convinced it would be easier the next time.
- Second night — Loss of Innocence. This dog may be young, but she’s not stupid. She recognized this ritual and resisted everything I asked. She delayed doing her business, hesitated at the door and avoided the crate. I tried rewards and put crackers in the crate and pointed for her to “go in”. She laid down and wagged her tail and stayed as far from the crate as she could. Eventually, enough prodding and shoving convinced her we weren’t giving up. I was wired so I decided to watch TV, but she didn’t like that and barked. Maybe it was past curfew and she was sounding the alarm.
- Third night — Coming of Age. This dog has skills. We decided to sweet talk her offering her treats which she graciously accepted, but she eyed every gesture and kept her distance from us and the crate. Eventually, we cornered her near the crate door and the teacher pushed the dog while I held the crate. It took both of us shoving and I felt like I ran a marathon.
- Fourth night — Battle Hound. I didn’t want to battle her and didn’t want to wake the teacher to help. I loaded the crate with treats, faced her the right direction and pulled the crate toward her — her butt against my chest. The first two attempts failed, but on the third she hopped in to turn around and I closed the door. I won, but it took hours for my adrenalin to wear off so I could go to sleep.
- Fifth night — Freedom Fighter. I tried a new strategy. I laid out her dog mat, offered her a chew toy and laid down to watch TV. She was fine for the first 30 minutes until she decided to hop on the sofa with me. She’s so big, I couldn’t get off nor could I dislodge her and she thought it was a game so she was nudging me and nibbling at my hands which aggravated me further. Eventually, I rolled off and corralled her into the cage, but once again the battle energized me and I couldn’t go to sleep.
- Sixth night — There has to be a better way so I decided to use child psychology – give her a reason to go into the crate. I leave treats in the crate, let her in the house and go to work in my office. She usually follows me in the office and asks for attention, but she knows the treats are in the crate. When she can’t stand it anymore she wanders off to steal the treats. I quietly follow her and when she reaches in to get the treats, I nudge her in the crate. It’s not fail safe and we experience an occasional regression, but it’s temporarily effective. The dog is warm and the family is happy.
I don’t question Mr. Schultz notion about happiness and warm puppies, but I can say he doesn’t know Hershey.