When we met Slider at his foster family’s house, they shared that he was having some trouble with house-breaking. The couple would routinely wake up in the morning to not-so-special surprises. But a couple of weeks later, they emailed to say the problem was solved: They’d started keeping Slider in his crate at night, as well as when they were away during the day, and voila.
We had already been planning to crate train our dog. All of Rachael’s greyhound rearing books recommended crate training as a way to set boundaries and to acclimate a dog to a new home. So having him sleep in the cage didn’t seem like a huge deal.
Slider’s first night with us was a Friday, which was good, because we got so little sleep, work the next day would have been killer. At first, Slider seemed fine with the crate. We set it up in the kitchen, and shut him in there for a few minutes at a time while we watched TV. He walked in without objection and seemed comfortable inside, lounging on the bed we’d bought online. But when we shut him in there for the night, as soon as we went upstairs, he began to cry.
This was no little whine. This was a full-on, high-pitched wail. It was the sort of noise a person might make if they got an unexpected call in the middle of the day that their mother had been hit by a bus. Or maybe the sort of noise you would make after nine hours of torture in a Syrian prison.
He cried and cried. Pretty soon, Rachael looked on the verge of tears, too. Logic seemed to indicate that if we gave in and went down to get him, we’d simply be rewarding him for crying and reinforcing the behavior. On the other hand, it was such a terrible noise, and any sense of human decency seemed to require taking mercy on the poor pup.
Indecisive, we let him cry for about 45 minutes, which felt like 45 years, before running to his rescue. Rachael took him outside to pee, and the minute he came back in the house, he bolted up the stairs. Defeated and exhausted, we carried the crate up and put it in the hallway outside our bedroom. With much coaxing, we lured Slider back inside, but he kept whining on and off. When he wasn’t crying, he was rattling around, uncomfortable. He didn’t sleep much, and we didn’t sleep at all.
On the second night, we started with the crate out in the hallway, but the histrionics resumed, and we again moved the cage, this time into the bedroom. Finally, Slider seemed comfortable, and all three of us got some much-needed sleep.
The adventure was far from over. Rachael worked from home on Monday, but on Tuesday, it was time to leave Slider home alone in the crate. Over the weekend, we made half-hearted attempts to help him build up to being by himself, but the best we managed was to put him in the crate, leave the room, shut the door, and wait about five minutes, until he again began to whine. Even that required a good deal of effort and a great many treats.
Tuesday morning, we latched the door on the crate and tried to sneak out of the house quietly. Before we had even reached the back door, he was whining. Over the next few days, Rachael would go in late and leave work early, and I came home at lunch, but it was clear Slider was miserable being left alone in his cage. At night, he happily slept in the cage with us in the bed nearby, but any time we left, he freaked. Neighbors on both sides made comments about all the noise.
And we started to suspect that Slider was planning an escape.
The horizontal bars below the door showed signs of abuse, twisted with tooth marks. One day they were bent some, the next they were bent more. At night, I’d push them back into place, but Slider would push them right back, and then some. Soon, both of those bars had been snapped off on one end. They didn’t seem essential, so we just left them hanging there. The door would still close—barely—though the whole thing looked warped. We worried that Slider might hurt himself doing battle with the crate, but he didn’t seem any worse for wear. Rachael inspected his gums and teeth, but neither seemed sore.
Then one day, about a week after Slider moved in with us, Rachael came home to a surprise. Our greyhound greeted her at the back door. He’d ripped the whole front end of the crate apart, then somehow squeezed his way out through an unbelievably narrow opening.
At that point, we figured Slider had won his freedom. The busted crate went into the dumpster.
Slider, God help us all, was about to have free rein.