Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 22, 2013

Looking for a solid solution

Cathie Shaffer
The Independent

ASHLAND — Lord help us all, there’s a puppy in my house. Carmen is a 12-week-old labrador brought home by my granddaughter and is as sweet as she can be. That said, she is a 12-week-old puppy.

Maggie, my Sheltie, has decided her purpose in life is to make Carmen into the perfect house dog. Trust me, she has her work cut out for her.

After all, Maggie has always lived with cats that are much easier to herd than a puppy. Not only is she oodles larger, but they seem to respect her barked commands far more than the puppy.

Despite her tender age, Carmen is already an escape artist. After makeshift barricades failed, I bought a baby gate with the hope of keeping Carmen confined while we were gone until she learns indoor behavior. And it worked for, oh, a half hour or so. Then she figured out speed and distance and topped the gate with the grace of an Olympic jumper.

It’s not like she’s stuck in a tiny place. She doesn’t seem to understand her home is the basement living quarters of my oldest grandgirl, which is the equivalent of an efficiency apartment. She just doesn’t like being alone.

Grandgirl went to bed Sunday night with Carmen safely behind the gate. As soon as her mistress was asleep, Carmen decided she needed to come up to visit the rest of us.

Our routine is settled. As darkness falls, Maggie and the cats start to snooze while I watch TV or work on the computer and quiet reigns.

Carmen doesn’t realize that. She came bouncing into the living room and right to me, ready to play. Her thumping paws woke Maggie, who didn’t appreciate the upstart puppy altering her life.

She barked; Carmen barked back. I knew where we were headed and it wasn’t good. So to preserve  my sanity and the cat’s nerves, I grabbed Carmen’s collar, lifted her over the gate and gave her the “go to bed” command every dog I’ve ever owned has learned to respect.

Carmen will, too. That was my theory anyway when she cleared the gate and was back in two minutes.

To reinforce the message, I put a folding table in front of the gate after I lifted her over and repeated “go to bed.”

I’d no more than settled back down before Carmen was trying to get on my lap. She’d gotten through the little bit of space above the gate and between the table and the door frame.

Back we went to the kitchen, over the gate Carmen went and I again repeated, “Go to bed.” And in the hopes of keeping her there, I grabbed a dining room chair and placed it against the door frame to close up the space and hold the table firmly against the gate.

It worked. I knew by the whining and yipping come from the other side of it. Satisfied that she could go back to sleep, Maggie hit the couch again. And a few minutes later, silence led me to believe that Carmen finally gave up and went to bed with the grandgirl.

Said grandgirl went to work at 6:30 a.m. Monday, recreating the gate/table/door arrangement before she left. There must have been just enough of a gap, however, because I woke a little after 8 with, yes, puppy eyes staring into mine with that “Hey, let’s play!” look.

So we’re going with plan B — replacing the door to the basement we took down years ago because we couldn’t imagine why we’d ever need it.

CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at cshaffer@zoominternet.net