Willie in his crate at bedtime
With just a couple of exceptions, Willie has slept inside a wire crate every night since “gotcha day”, the day when Richard and I first laid eyes on him at the Spring Valley park and ride following his thousand-mile road trip from Central Louisiana.
While he pretty much has the run of our house, the crate – a black, powder-coated cage about the size of a wall oven, has been his den since the first day he came home. It fits perfectly under a side table in the kitchen, and each night, we put him to bed with fresh water, a few toys, and something interesting to chew on. He homes back to his crate many times throughout the day to add a bone and remove a toy or vice versa, or simply to hang out and relax while we eat lunch. Most nights, he puts himself to bed – something that can happen anytime after sunset. I often have to rouse him around 9:00 pm or so for one last trip outside, followed by his bed-time biscuit. Willie is a creature of habit, and he knows the routines; long ago I stopped having to coax him back into his crate with a biscuit: instead, he now trots inside and waits, wagging.
Willie came to us crate trained. Keri, his Louisiana foster mom, told me that, with seven foster dogs in the house at any one time, crate training was the only way to maintain any semblance of order. And while I prefer the idea of Willie sleeping at the foot of my bed (or maybe even on the bed), the few times I carried him upstairs at bedtime he voted with his feet. Down the stairs he went, through the dark house, and back into the comfort and security of his crate.
After Willie destroyed the first few pillows, heating pads, and micro-waved beanbags Richard and I placed inside his crate for comfort, we reduced his furnishings to an old towel that he could arrange — or chew — at will. Several months later, after he’d matured a bit more, I took a chance and added another pad to the crate – a camel colored quilted fleece “mattress” that perfectly fits the crate’s black plastic liner tray. The first time I watched Willie settle himself on the pad, I thought I saw a look of gratitude.
The crate collapses flat and travels with Willie when he stays at Aunt Sissie’s or Aunt Jody’s in New York City, and I brought the crate – and Willie — with me last week to a beach cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I placed it on the twin bed beside mine in the guest room, and each night at bedtime, Willie settled himself inside, as usual.
Uninitiated and well-intentioned animal lovers sometimes seem to think it’s cruel to house an animal in a cage. But as long as he has his crate, anywhere Willie goes is home.