A few weeks ago, blind Cedar began getting out of his crate in Widget's House during the night. I'd walk in first thing in the morning and find him out in the middle of the floor, with a nice pile of poop left for me to clean up. We put all the dogs at Widget's House in crates for the night, because there's no way you can leave 20 dogs loose in a building unsupervised for that long -- think frat house with an open keg. (Or "Animal House," with Trooper filling in for John Belushi.) Some will get into the trash, some will pull the food bags off the shelves and gorge themselves sick, and others, like Cedar, will take a moment to relieve themselves indoors. And some will do all three.
You get the picture.
Cedar, like most of the dogs there, sleeps in a giant crate, which has an annoying twist-handle feature that usually confuses people the first time they try to actually use it. And to open it, you need to push a tab on the outside and twist the round handle at the same time. It is, in short, a much more difficult and fool-proof locking mechanism than you find on smaller crates -- I presume because it's designed to contain the much bigger dogs who would typically use this size of crate.
So the first time I found Cedar loose in the morning, I figured I must have forgotten to lock the crate door latch the previous night.
The next time I found him loose, I thought, what the @%$@%?! I knew I had double-checked the latch the night before.
So then I stuck an extra metal pin (you can see them in the corners of the door in the photo) in the lower right hand corner of the door, into the hole where the crate door's bottom pin slides when you close the latch. Wedging it in tight would make it impossible for him to get out, right?
Fast forward three days, and there he was again, out on the floor by himself. How on earth? We had never had a dog get out of one of these crates before with the door properly locked. And now Cedar was routinely getting out, even with extra precautions.
I added a pin to the right corner hole in the top of the crate door. Double-wedged, that will work!
Um, no, not exactly. Out again.
Okay, a third pin in the lower left corner of the door.
I would walk into the building, find him wandering around, look at the poop on the floor, and want to pull my hair out.
I finally realized I was being outwitted by this blind dog on a regular basis, and there had to be a mechanical explanation. I got down on my hands and knees and examined the latch mechanism with a flash light. And then I saw it: The tab you depress with your thumb before turning the handle was bent ever so slightly ... and if you hit it just right, even from inside the crate, the latch would pop loose. After that, it was just a matter of pushing with determined paws to force the door open, regardless of how many extra pins were wedged in the holes.
Following that "eureka!" moment, I moved Cedar to a different giant crate and ... case solved.
You know those bumper stickers that say "My border collie is smarter than your honor student"? At this point I felt I should make a bumper sticker that says, "My blind dog is smarter than I am."
Please keep voting for the ranch every day in The Animal Rescue Site/PetFinder's Shelter Challenge. Thanks to your votes, we came in third nationwide and won $3,000 for the animals in the previous contest earlier this year. Now we have a shot at No. 1 and the $20,000 grand prize in the current contest! Enter "Rolling Dog Ranch" and our state postal code, MT for Montana, and it will bring up our listing so you can cast your vote. Please ask your family and friends to vote, too. Thank you!