Monday, February 6, 2012

Milestones

Freedictionary.com defines a milestone as "an important event, as in a person's career, the history of a nation, or the advancement of knowledge in a field; a turning point."

Makes milestones sound so very distinguished and important, n'est-ce pas? Like the discovery of penicillin. Or the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Or the day you got promoted to CEO of the company.

But there are other less renowned events in all of our lives that count as milestones, marking our progression from one stage of development to another. Like taking our first steps. Or going to school for the first time. Or graduating from university. Or buying our first home. Perhaps not cause for publication in scientific journals or for a national fireworks display, but cause for celebration nonetheless.

And there are even milestones in the lives of dogs. I know this, because the Beast achieved what I consider to be a very significant milestone last night.

Have you ever seen a more comfy crate?
The only person who reads this blog My faithful readers will know that we have been crate training the Beast. He stays in the crate during the day when we are not home, and he sleeps in his crate at night. And despite his somewhat rough introduction to this arrangement, he has settled into his little den quite nicely. Of course, the food puzzle that gets thrown in there with him every morning probably helps. Nonetheless, he no longer sets off the house alarm with his incessant barking every time we leave the house with him in the crate. That is no small amount of progress, in my books.

It is not, however, our intention to leave the Beast in the crate for all time. And indeed, we have tried to leave him out for shorter periods of time every now and then to see how he fares. The good news is that my shoes, which are generally strewn about the house, are safe when he is out of his crate. As are all of our other belongings and furnishings. In other words, he is not destructive. The bad news is that he is addicted to butter. And about 50% of the time that we leave him out, he will make a b-line for the kitchen counter top, knock down the butter dish (along with anything else left lying on the counter, like a sharp knife), take it to his bed, and lick it clean.

I know you're thinking. Who can blame him for being addicted to creamy, delicious butter? Well, that, and just hide the butter dish and knives, stupid!

Don't you think that Hubby and I thought of that already? The problem is that when the Beast has finished his unfruitful counter-surf for the butter dish, he convinces himself that it must be hiding in the garbage can. He then empties the garbage one piece at a time, each of which he brings to his bed to shred to bits in a desperate search for his dairy crack. Which of course he doesn't find. (But he has found the wrapper from raw chicken which he was more than happy to gobble down, and not quite so happy to throw up a few hours later.)

And don't tell me to hide the garbage can either, because he will only bring his search and rescue mission to some other part of the house. And I am frankly not prepared to "dog-proof" my entire house. There are rules, and the Beast needs to learn them. And the same way I had to earn the privilege to use my dad's car to go out on Saturday nights by respecting things like a curfew, the Beast has to earn the privilege of crate freedom by respecting that the butter dish and the garbage can and any other potential hiding place are just as off-limits to him when we are away as they are when we are around.

Yeah, that's right! I'm a hard ass!

But a hard-ass who is starting to soften, because last night, while watching the SuperBowl (and wishing that any two other teams other than those led by my two least favourite QBs could be playing), I looked over at hubby and told him that it was time to let the Beast sleep outside of his crate. He is doing really well with his training, and becoming more and more responsive to our leadership, so he deserves a little something in return. And hubby agreed. So as soon as that lip-synching gong show that was the Madonna half-time and the rest of that miserable football game were over, we put him out for his last pee of the day and started to get ready for bed.

When the Beast came in from his potty break, he made straight for his crate, as he does every night. When I didn't come up behind him and lock the door right away, he stood there kind of puzzled, tipping his head from side to side with a big question mark floating over him. As though he could understand me, I looked at him and said, "Not tonight, Beasty. You can sleep here if you want, or you can come upstairs with Hubby and I. We'll make up a bed for you."

Sparing no expense - the big boy bed
Well of course, he followed me straight upstairs. And the "bed" that we made for him was a blanket spread out on the hallway floor just outside of our bedroom (not inside our bedroom, thank-you-very-much, because having a dog snoring away at your feet could be a bit of a mood spoiler, if you know what I'm sayin'...). And I just pointed to the bed, gave him the signal for "down", and he immediately curled up and settled in for a good night's sleep.

I expected to wake up in the middle of the night and find him either sleeping right in the doorway to our bedroom, or perhaps right in our bedroom itself, or perhaps even licking butter out of the butter dish. But nope. I woke up three times last night (what can I say, it was SuperBowl Sunday, so there was beer, so there was more peeing than usual), and each time I woke up, there he was, right on his blanket, sleeping like a little doggie angel. Only once did he get up to stretch and try to follow me into the bedroom. But I just pointed him back to the blanket and he happily curled back up in his spot, where he stayed until he heard the alarm go off at 5:30 this morning. (At which point he came into the bedroom to lick our faces and get us up).

Snug as a bug in a rug

And so, my little Beasty spent his first night in a big-boy-bed. And it was drama free.

This is quite an achievement for a dog like the Beast, known for pushing limits and trying to get what he wants despite the rules. He could have snuck downstairs and gone butter surfing. He could have curled up in the corner of our bedroom. But he did neither. He stayed in his big-boy-bed all night long.

It's a milestone. And I'm very proud of my little pup.